The wrong way to address climate change

The Senate is now debating a climate change bill, typically referred to as the “Lieberman-Warner” bill, referring to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA). Technically, we think they’ll end up considering a slightly different version of that bill, offered by the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Since we’re fairly certain the Senate will actually be working off the Boxer language, I’ll refer to that.

Here is our Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on this bill. It’s four pages, but a very easy read. If you’re at all interested in climate change policy, I highly recommend you read the whole thing.

Here’s the bottom line from the SAP:

For these and other reasons stated below, the President would veto this bill.

Before I dive into the problems with what this bill does, it’s important to understand what it doesn’t do. The Boxer amendment would not fix the problems with current law and climate change. Here’s what the President said about this on April 16th in the Rose Garden:

As we approach this challenge, we face a growing problem here at home. Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago — to primarily address local and regional environmental effects — and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate. For example, under a Supreme Court decision last year, the Clean Air Act could be applied to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. This would automatically trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act of greenhouse gases all across our economy — leading to what Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell last week called, “a glorious mess.”

If these laws are stretched beyond their original intent, they could override the programs Congress just adopted, and force the government to regulate more than just power plant emissions. They could also force the government to regulate smaller users and producers of energy — from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings. This would make the federal government act like a local planning and zoning board, have crippling effects on our entire economy.

Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges. Such decisions should be opened — debated openly; such decisions should be made by the elected representatives of […]