The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal that global warming endangers public health and welfare cleared the White House's review process earlier this week. Carbon-emitting industries have long feared the day when they'd finally be held accountable for their release of heat-trapping gases, and now they're especially spooked.

Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, worries about the regulation of businesses and projects set to receive stimulus funds, and he's concerned that they will be tangled up by EPA reviews if the endangerment proposal flies. James Hackett, CEO of major oil company Anadarko, said recently in an interview, "The histrionic and maniacal focus on carbon dioxide is intellectually repugnant" and would take "the economy into a tailspin" where we'd end up "the world's cleanest third world country" -- which, I guess, could be worse for our health than living in the world's dirtiest first world country.

Lisa Jackson, EPA chief administrator, will reportedly sign off on the proposal this week before sending it off for a 60-day public comment period and two public hearings. In an interview with TAP at her EPA office last month, Jackson anticipated that the industries would begin to bellyache. But if industries are truly worried that the regulation hammers will start pounding, said Jackson, their paranoia is unfounded ... at least for now. Jackson stated:

It will be a looong road to this future, but some are trying to portray it as "EPA is going to regulate tomorrow," or my favorite one is "EPA is going to regulate so now we can't do stimulus work." ... The process of carbon regulation, if it were gonna happen, will probably take years. The regulatory process of EPA is not a quick one. And so I don't know how one spins a potential finding of endangerment into "we're not going to be able to get stimulus projects done."

Kovacs, of course, is leaving out that most federal projects are already subject to environmental review through the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). That Hackett fails to focus on carbon dioxide, and the potential revenue he could draw if a cap-and-trade policy is enacted by Congress, is a repugnance itself. But whether from Congress or EPA, carbon regulations are most certainly coming, albeit later than sooner, so business leaders would be best served to start confronting their fears now.

-- Brentin Mock

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