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Peterson: Cap and trade 'dead' in Congress -- but not at EPA

BLOOMINGTON — Carbon cap and trade legislation is effectively "dead" in Congress, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson told feed industry executives Monday, with the chief struggle over carbon regulation now solely being played out in and around the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Senate isn't just short of the votes for a cap-and-trade measure like what passed the House last June, it's short of the votes for any significant climate measure at all. And today Peterson confirmed the whispers on Capitol Hill — that environmental lobbyists are scaling back their efforts on a large-scale climate bill because they too have come to privately accept that it won't happen this year.

"The environmental community has basically stood down and they're pulling all of their money out of the effort and all their lobbying," Peterson said. "So it's dead."

"So the issue now is is the EPA going to try to regulate this under the Clean Air Act?" Peterson said. That was almost certainly a rhetorical question, because the answer is obviously yes. In fact, they've already started.

In 2009, the EPA ruled that greenhouse gasses were an "endangerment" to humans, a move that paves the way for regulating emissions under the Clean Air Act. It's an argument linked to climate change, specifically that "climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases threatens the public's health and the environment." Last month the EPA upheld its own decision when it rejected petitions that suggested the science behind climate change theory was faulty.

Now the agency is moving full steam ahead on regulations aimed at cutting emissions from cars and trucks. Power plants and heavy manufacturers are up next. And if the agency can deflect anticipated court challenges, experts say it may pursue even more aggressive carbon policies, like a national cap on carbon — which the toughest half of the phrase cap and trade.

Ironically, while the carbon bill is dead, so too is a measure that would forbid the EPA from regulating it under the Clean Air Act.

Peterson and Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton were among those who proposed a bill to that effect. The measure wound up co-signed by a couple dozen Democrats and Republicans. Peterson reckons it could have passed the House had it made it to the floor.

But Republicans held off endorsing his measure en masse — preferring instead to introduce their own carbon bill. That one was a replca of the Peterson/Skelton bill, but with no Democrats on board. It, like the carbon cap-and-trade bill before it, has stalled in Congress.

And with Congress refusing to pass anything on carbon either way, the EPA continues to have free rein to deal with the problem as it sees fit.

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Comments (3)

Progressives should shed no tears for the demise of cap 'n trade, and in that respect are the strange bedfellows of the Right in this case. Legislation that originates in response to a societal imperative always has been turned by the time it reaches its final form to the benefit of the major corporate stakeholders involved. As has been written about extensively, our unsustainable post-capitalist economy can only persist by moving from one bubble to the next, in which the financial services industry and its clients can create and arrogate to themselves vast sums of fictitious wealth, and hie out of town before the bubble bursts. Cap 'n trade (responding to the finance sector, which is the major corporate patron of the Democrats) would be the next bubble, characterized by the creation, securitizing and trading of instruments reflecting vast but illusory amounts of value on the basis of almost wholly unverifiable and unenforceable environmental improvements. (Beyond which, the aggregate emission limits discussed would be wholly inadequate to avert the devastating climate change consequences that are already occurring.) Not, of course, that there is any hope that our society will summon the will to respond in any other fashion. I've been moving my funds into soylent green.

Whether you agree with their actions or not, unelected bureaucrats in government agencies shouldn't have this much political power. We are a representative democracy, not an aristocracy of bureaucrats who get to impose their rules on us.

This is what conservatives mean by "big government" and it must be stopped come November.

Dennis,

The only political power the EPA has was given to it by elected officials- in this case Congress when it passed the Clean Air Act. As I recall a Supreme Court ruling a couple years ago clarified the EPA's authority to move ahead with regulation of greenhouse gases

As a strong environmentalist, I have always felt that direct regulation of greenhouse gases by the EPA would be a much more efficient and effective way to do that than the "market based" approach of a cap and trade system. In addition, Lisa Jackson, who heads the EPA is probably the best person we have ever had in that psoition.