Post-Election Climate Wrap-Up: Anxious Days Ahead For EPA

I’ve always thought that implementation of EPA’s GHG rules for stationary sources was inevitable in the absence of climate change legislation. The Supreme Court told EPA that GHGs are a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Given the decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, EPA’s subsequent regulatory moves have been pretty much unavoidable. 

Since the statute seems to mandate GHG regulation, only Congressional action could block the rules. While a House majority seemed plausible, even before the election, getting 60 votes in the Senate always seemed a much stiffer proposition. Moreover, one could always expect an Obama veto, if legislation precluding EPA’s rules somehow were to get through Congress. Now, I’m not so sure.

If it turns out that there are enough coal state Democrats to move the legislation through the Senate, and if the supporters keep attaching the legislation as a rider to bills that the Administration does want, it may become difficult at some point for Obama to continue to veto it. A more tantalizing possibility is that the GOP might use such legislation as a bargaining chip with Obama over energy legislation, agreeing to support energy legislation, but only if Obama agrees to a prohibition on EPA GHG rules for stationary sources. In that situation, would Obama throw the GHG rules under the bus? Now that’s an interesting scenario.

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