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Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington April 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts) Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington April 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)  

‘MASSIVE SEIZURE OF POWER’: Climate scientists, economists challenge EPA

A group of climate scientists and economists are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary sources.

These critics see a “massive seizure of power” by the agency.

The scientists and economists, including the former chair of the EPA’s Science Advisory Committee, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, arguing that the agency does not have the authority to permit greenhouse gases from stationary sources. According to the group, such a permitting scheme is a “naked power grab of the most cynical sort.”

“There is no avoiding that this rule is a massive seizure of power, indeed likely far and away the largest seizure of power by any government agency ever,” reads the amicus brief.

“Under the guise of a technical statutory interpretation, the EPA now asserts it has a central role for itself to control and dictate all aspects of our lives under an over 30-year-old statutory provision never previously thought remotely to cover this subject matter,” the brief continues.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments from the EPA and some states and energy companies in February regarding the agency’s greenhouse gas permitting system. The central question of the case is, whether or not the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions from cars and trucks gives the agency the authority to set standards for stationary facilities, like power plants and refineries.

The EPA argues that it has the authority to permit stationary sources, but petitioners say that such a permitting scheme would be unworkable since greenhouse gases stem from global emissions and can’t be controlled by limiting U.S. emissions alone.

The high court’s decision will have huge implications for the energy sector and for the economies of coal states. Given that, several Republican lawmakers have injected themselves into this case, arguing that the court should rule against the EPA.

“The EPA continually attempts to sidestep Congress and expand its role in advancing a partisan political agenda,” said Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith. “The Obama administration continues to overstep its constitutional authority as it attempts to enact job-killing regulations.”

Smith was joined by Kentucky’s Republican congressional delegation in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on Monday. This includes Kentucky Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as Republican Reps. Andy Barr, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie, Hal Rogers and Ed Whitfield.

The lawmakers argue that the EPA has effectively usurped Congress’s authority to write the laws by moving to regulate greenhouse gases — which was done under the Obama administration.

“Our Constitution reserves the power to enact, amend, or repeal statutes to Congress alone,”  reads the lawmakers’ brief.

“The power asserted by the EPA here infringes on the constitutional prerogatives of Congress, undermines government accountability, and threatens liberty,” the brief says.

The greenhouse gas permitting scheme is a key component of President Obama’s plan to tackle global warming. It would allow the administration to fore more coal plants offline to reduce U.S. carbon emissions, which some scientists say cause global warming.

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