Monday, April 16, 2007

The "A" Must Stand for Ambivalence

In most areas, the current administration has pushed the envelope when it comes to the power of the executive. They have claimed that the president has the authority to arrest and detain American citizens he deems as "enemy combatants" indefinitely. They have argued that it could authorize the torture of detainees , and then seems it did just that in secret prisons abroad. They denied detainees in Guantanamo the right to habeas corpus and stripped them of the protections provided by the (congressionally ratified) Geneva Conventions. They argued that despite FISA, the NSA had the right to decide who and when to wire tap without the oversight provided by the FISA court. The Bush administration and the executive branch he heads have been nothing if not consistent. He is, at the end of the day, the decider.

So how about the Environmental Protection Agency? The government organization created to protect and preserve the environment? Perhaps it would pursue its mission statement as zealously as its executive branch cousins.

No such luck.

When a group of states and private organizations petitioned the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, the EPA responded (contrary to the opinion of the two previous General Counsels) that it was not authorized under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, and that even if it were, any such regulation would not be a prudent course of action. This led to a court challenge, and finally the SCOTUS opinion issued earlier this month in Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Court held that the EPA does have the statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gases and that if it declines to do so, it must provide a suitable reason grounded in the language of the Clean Air Act itself.

You don't even have to be a lawyer to be outraged at this. The "Environmental Protection Agency" was arguing that it did not have the power to regulate polluting gases being released into the air under a statute called the "Clean Air Act?" Fer fuck's sake. If you can't do this, what the hell ARE you authorized to do?

No comments: