Letter to the Editor: EPA Is Following the Supreme Court

This Letter to the Editor appeared in the Wall Street Journal.


March 18, 2011
by Eileen Claussen

Your March 15 editorial "Carbon and Democracy" accuses the Environmental Protection Agency of ignoring democratic principles and the rule of law in its efforts to protect the public from the harm caused by changes in our climate. Let's review the facts.

It was the Supreme Court, not the EPA, that decided in 2007 that carbon dioxide meets the definition of pollutant under the Clean Air Act—a law enacted by a democratically elected Congress and signed by a democratically elected President, George H.W. Bush. Responding to the court's decision, and after a thoroughly open process with more than 380,000 public comments, the EPA determined that greenhouse gas emissions do indeed pose a risk to public health and welfare, and are therefore subject to regulation under the act.

The EPA's initial step to reduce greenhouse gases was an agreement with auto makers to improve auto efficiency, reducing oil reliance and saving a car's owner $3,000 over its lifetime. Now the EPA is beginning to require the use of proven cost-effective energy-efficiency technologies in new factories and power plants.

One can argue whether the EPA has been too aggressive or too lenient in its approach. If Congress believes there is a better response to the court's ruling, it should amend the act or enact a new law. That's how democracy works.

The EPA's actions are not the work of an "unaccountable bureaucracy," but of an agency complying with a Supreme Court decision in carrying out a democratically enacted law.