Examiner Editorial: EPA ruling threatens congressional authority

There are so many deep flaws in the “endangerment ruling” announced Monday by President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency that it’s quite possible the worst of them will escape notice. After all, it’s hard to top the drama of the millions of lost jobs and the crippling energy crisis that will result if the agency begins regulating greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide.

The EPA unilaterally awarded itself authority to do just that with the ruling. But even worse will be the terrible damage this ruling will inflict upon one of the most basic of American constitutional pillars: the separation of powers among equal branches, in this case the president and Congress. Obama has launched a thermo­nuclear warhead aimed directly at the very heart of congressional authority.

Here’s why: The EPA ruling assigns to the agency authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions not included under that law’s purview. Indeed, when the original law was approved by Congress, nobody said a word about any agency of the federal government telling any business or industry in America how much carbon dioxide it could emit.

By now saying the law gives it unilateral authority to declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant, the EPA is grabbing power to regulate the 85 percent of the U.S. economy that depends on energy derived from the burning of carbon-based fuels — such as oil, natural gas and coal — that are heavy carbon dioxide emitters.

This ruling thus renders congressional intent irrelevant. If the ruling stands, the law will then be whatever the president and his bureaucratic minions in the executive branch decree, not what the people decide acting through their elected representatives in Congress.

Congressional liberals who failed to get their cap-and-trade scheme approved in the Senate are ecstatic about the EPA’s ruling. There was a time when American liberals worried about excessive executive power. Today, they cheer as Obama dons the robes of the Imperial Presidency in ways that Richard Nixon never dreamed possible. Consider, for example, the enthusiasm of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who said, “The message to Congress is crystal clear: Get moving. If Congress does not pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration is more than justified to use the EPA to impose new regulations.” In other words, if Congress heeds public opposition and refuses to pass cap-and-trade, well, then Czar Obama will act on his own.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is challenging the EPA ruling in federal court, but Congress ought not wait on the judicial branch to declare this action unconstitutional, as it surely will if and when the Supreme Court reconsiders the issue. Congress must assert its supreme authority now by denying funds for the enforcement of this pernicious ruling and explicitly directing EPA to withdraw it.

Like Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are Democrats, but does that mean they must also be his servants?

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