Since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, Congress, EPA, state regulators, environmentalists, and industry groups have been trying to determine what it would mean to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act. While both presidential candidates are on record as supporting some kind of climate change legislation, the currently proposed legislation is extraordinarily complex and there are certainly no guarantees that legislation will in fact be enacted any time soon.
In the meantime, Massachusetts v. EPA does not seem to leave EPA much wiggle room, notwithstanding the agency’s current unwillingness to move forward on CO2 regulation. In the absence of new legislation, it seems likely that, at some point, some court is going to order EPA to promulgate regulations governing emissions of CO2 as a pollutant.
So, what would be the scope of regulation of CO2 under the Clean Air Act? Based on a recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the answer is – really, really, broad. The Chamber assumes that any facility emitting more than 250 tons of CO2 per year would be regulated as a stationary source under the Clean Air Act. The Chamber report estimates that more than 1,000,000 million facilities would be subject to such regulati9ons.
Making these estimates is quite difficult; EPA’s own estimates were lower than those in the Chamber report. However, whether the estimate is several hundred thousand or more than one million, the picture is not pretty. The bottom line is that everyone has an interest in climate change legislation, because, in the absence of legislation, regulation will come at some point – and when it does, its impacts will be felt everywhere.