This past week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a series of new environmental standards. These standards include more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and structured enforcement of Clean Air Act permits for facilities that produce greenhouse gases beginning in 2011.

The EPA was founded in 1970 during the Nixon administration with the following mission:

The establishment and enforcement of environmental protection standards consistent with national environmental goals… The conduct of research on the adverse effects of pollution and on methods and equipment for controlling it; the gathering of information on pollution; and the use of this information in strengthening environmental protection programs and recommending policy changes… assisting others, through grants, technical assistance and other means, in arresting pollution of the environment… assisting the Council on Environmental Quality in developing and recommending to the President new policies for the protection of the environment. (emphasis mine).

As the Central Illinois 912 Project has addressed previously, the EPA was granted the power to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant and thus it is able to be regulated by the EPA via a 2007 Supreme Court case , and this ruling is being challenged.

CAFE standards are regulations that car manufacturers must meet regarding the average fuel efficiency of the vehicles they sell, not the fuel efficiency of the cars they produce. For example, if gas prices drop, and people thus begin to purchase cars with lower fuel efficiency, the CAFE level for that company decreases. This could result in a company being penalized, even if they made fuel efficient cars that the consumers simply did not want to purchase. The EPA’s creation of CAFE standards is essentially a regulation on industry that falls in line with the mission of the EPA: “establishment and enforcement of environmental protection standards.” However, since the EPA is an agency whose role is administered under the executive branch, how can it constitutionally make and enforce regulations, a role given to the Legislative Branch?

The same can be said of the plans to enforce permits for the emission of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide) from stationary facilities, such as manufacturing plants, via the Clean Air Act. The EPA states:

Today’s action determines that Clean Air Act construction and operating permit requirements for the largest emitting facilities will begin when the first national rule controlling GHGs takes effect. If finalized as proposed, the rule limiting GHG emissions for cars and light trucks would trigger these requirements in January 2011 – the earliest model year 2012 vehicles meeting the standards can be sold in the United States. The agency expects to issue final vehicle GHG standards shortly.

“The Clean Air Act” includes several pieces of legislation passed over the last few decades that define the EPA’s role in regulating air and the ozone. Fifteen states have sued the EPA from making such regulations until further study can be done to re-affirm that such emissions can be hazardous to one’s health, but they are not challenging on the grounds of Constitutionality. Again, why is the EPA regulating or enforcing regulations that should be formulated by an elected Congress, not an unelected “independent agency”?

Is it not again twisting the branches of government if an agency of the executive branch is legislating production and carbon emissions? Is Congress not appropriately providing the proper checks and balances if it allows unelected bureaucrats to do their elected job of legislating?

Crossposted here.