Statement of Senator Joseph Lieberman
“The Implications of the Supreme Court’s Decision Regarding EPA’s Authorities with Respect to Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act”
A Hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works
April 24, 2007
Thank you, Madame Chairwoman.
Even before the Supreme Court issued its decision on April 2, I think most large industrial firms in this country saw the inevitability of new federal laws mandating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. They were smart enough to realize that the American people would not let the federal government get away with inaction in the face of the scientific consensus that our children and grandchildren would suffer dearly for it.
What the Supreme Court decision adds, I think, is a sense of imminence. The decision ensures that if Congress does not enact nation-wide requirements for reducing global warming pollution within the next few years, then the Environmental Protection Agency will promulgate such requirements.
I realize the Court did not order EPA to promulgate new rules. But EPA has conceded the causal connection between man-made greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming, and the Administration accepts the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In light of those official positions, I cannot see how EPA can avoid issuing emission-reduction requirements for greenhouse gases without inviting an even more forceful response from the courts.
I am also aware that an agency can draw out the rulemaking process when it is reluctant to issue new regulations. But the law does place limits on administrative foot-dragging.
I think, then, that sophisticated industrial concerns in this country realize that they will see an EPA global warming rule by 2010 unless Congress acts earlier.
I think Congress will act earlier. For one thing, I think the private sector would like to see a statute chart a clear, nation-wide, efficient, and sensible course. I do not think American businesses want to subject themselves totally to agency rules that will be subject to litigation, with all the uncertainties that entails.
Indeed, Congress has started to act. Last week, A Republican member of this committee, Senator Alexander, introduced a bill that would achieve very substantial reductions the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the electricity generating sector of the economy. I was pleased to co-sponsor that strong bill -- just as I was pleased to cosponsor a comparably strong power plant pollution bill introduced by Senator Carper.
Also last week, another Republican member of this committee, Senator Warner, stated that Congress should establish new rules or controls to combat global warming. He said that the new federal program must “allow for an economy-wide approach that incorporates market-based flexibility, provides for a measure of federal investment in new technologies, includes cost-containment mechanisms, and has environmental integrity. Most importantly, the federal government must ensure international participation by developed and developing nations.” I happen to know of – and a lot about -- a pending multi-sector, market-based climate bill that might serve as the basis for legislation that could earn Senator Warner’s support.
So I am optimistic about what this Congress, and the Senate in particular, can and will accomplish to curb global warming. That brewing action does not, however, relieve EPA of the legal and, in my opinion, moral obligation to act with all deliberate speed to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision. In particular, and as an initial matter, I hope that Administrator Johnson will grant California’s petition for a waiver of federal preemption with respect to the state’s greenhouse-gas emission standards for vehicles. Connecticut and other states have had the good sense to adopt the California standards. I do not see how EPA could deny the waiver petition without contravening the Supreme Court’s holdings.
Finally, Madame Chairwoman, let me just congratulate Connecticut, along with Massachusetts and all the other petitioning states, municipalities, and public-interest organizations for this landmark court victory. I am very proud to represent a state that stood on the right side of history here.
Thank you, Madame Chairwoman.