Supreme Court should block EPA’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gases

Karen Harned Executive Director, NFIB Small Business Legal Center
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In the wake of the country’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, there are some signs that the economy is recovering — housing prices are up almost 11% from last year and consumer confidence is at a five-year high. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is making mistakes that threaten to stifle the recovery. One example is its decision to introduce disastrous new regulations on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. President Obama mentioned those proposed regulations in his climate speech on Tuesday.

In December 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unilaterally determined that certain GHGs threaten the public health and welfare and therefore must be regulated under the Clean Air Act. That determination effectively allows the EPA to circumvent Congress and enact new regulations on businesses and individuals that Congress never intended.

These new regulations, if they’re allowed to take effect, will brand hundreds of thousands of small farms, restaurants, manufacturers and even commercial offices as “stationary sources” of pollution, meaning that they will be required to complete costly and time-consuming permit applications. This will cost consumers — including hundreds of thousands of small businesses — billions of dollars per year in higher energy bills. As a result, some businesses won’t be able to expand, others will have to lay off workers and still others will have to shut their doors.

The administration’s decision to impose these costly mandates also sends a terrible message to entrepreneurs and those looking to innovate.

Because the Clean Air Act doesn’t actually empower the federal government to regulate GHGs, the EPA’s actions have no legal basis. That’s why the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents 350,000 small businesses, has joined other organizations in asking the Supreme Court to rule that the EPA has misinterpreted the Clean Air Act in order to justify its policies and effectively rewrite the law. We are hopeful that the Court will see that the president’s attempt to use the EPA as a political tool will impact almost every sector of the economy, including universities, schools and hospitals — institutions that are hardly thought of as “polluters.”

We all want clean air, water and energy — and a safe environment for our children. Yet we are troubled by the president’s decision to bypass Congress and implement an agenda that Congress and the American people have rejected in the past. Climate change policies should be debated, not imposed through agency fiat in a way that will cripple our economy. The Supreme Court should recognize that the federal government has greatly overstepped its bounds, reject this new practice and help America move forward again.

Karen Harned is the executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, the leading advocacy organization for small business owners in our nation’s courts.