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Nebraska makes itself heard in Washington

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nebraska has seldom spoken so clearly to Washington as we are now in response to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's threat to make an end-run around Congress and adopt its own, potentially disastrous regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

Gov. Dave Heineman has written directly to the EPA and our state Attorney General Jon Bruning has filed a suit to stop the EPA. As a State Senator, I am also concerned about this environmental power grab.

Nebraska is working together to contest the EPA's plan because the plan would do little to protect the environment, but would do permanent damage to the economy. It would burden state government with substantial new costs just as Nebraska addresses difficult economic realities with the state budget.

What Nebraska faces is small compared to the multibillion-dollar gaps in some other states. Moreover, our 4.8 percent unemployment level is one of lowest in the country. However, we do not want these numbers to increase. The EPA greenhouse gas regulation plan is a blueprint for expanding both.

The EPA's mischief begins with its issuing of what's called an "endangerment finding" on greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas. These gases aren't a threat in the sense that breathing them is a threat to health, but scientists predict that they trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Based on that theory, the EPA has concluded that it can classify greenhouse gases as harmful to human health and welfare.

The EPA reasons that this gives it jurisdiction to regulate greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act. That jurisdiction is far from clear. Greenhouse gases and their potential link to climate change are a fundamental policy issue that belongs to Congress, where the decisions makers at least have the legitimacy of having been elected by the people back home.

The EPA's permitted greenhouse gas levels are totally impractical. Specifically, the EPA has ruled that current greenhouse gas concentrations at the current level of 435 parts per million endanger public health. Meanwhile, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change has set the ambitious target of 450 parts per million as a goal for the whole world --- a goal the Obama administration approved at the recent Copenhagen climate conference.

So the EPA is threatening to impose more stringent restrictions than those endorsed by the U.N. or the president, to whom the agency reports. Enforcement of such a level would freeze industrial expansion, generate years of wasteful lawsuits and force Nebraska and other states to bear the substantial cost of creating a new bureaucracy to enforce the EPA regulations.

The theories on greenhouse gases and climate change are definitely not settled science; they are theories, which data supporting them, has in some cases, been manipulated by those with political agendas. We need to approach these theories with commonsense and sound judgment, not panic, bad legislation, or overreaching regulation that could seriously damage our economy and wipe away even more of our freedoms.

-- Sources: Associated Press, Lincoln Journal Star


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State Sen. Mark Christensen
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