Carbon dioxide became public enemy No. 1 Monday when the Environmental Protection Agency made an endangerment finding declaring that CO2 is a harmful pollutant that must be regulated under the Clean Air Act. This is the EPA's Christmas present to President Barack Obama as he prepares to jet to Copenhagen with a mostly empty toy bag to discuss climate change. The president had hoped to bring with him to Copenhagen a signed cap-and-trade bill; the prospect of that happening in the near future looks increasingly dim. The more the American people learn about the high costs of such legislation and the near zero environmental gain, the less support there is for the seriously flawed policy.
President Obama, not to be deterred by waning political support for cap-and-trade, has found another weapon in his arsenal to save the planet - EPA regulation. The endangerment finding starts a process of EPA promulgating regulations under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 as an air pollutant like sulfur dioxide or carbon monoxide. The potential cost to American business and consumers is huge. EPA will literally have the authority to control almost every aspect of energy production and use in the country. EPA will of course promise to exempt smaller sources from regulation. Ultimately this will not happen. The Clean Air Act language is clear that if a facility is listed in one of 28 categories and has the potential to emit 100 tons per year of CO2 or is any other type of establishment and has the potential to emit 250 tons of CO2, it is required to obtain a permit under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration clause of the Clean Air Act.
While only large industrial facilities have the potential to emit 250 tons of pollutants like sulfur dioxide, this is not the case with CO2. Many office buildings, enclosed malls, small buildings and other commercial establishments will now be required to obtain PSD permits. PSD permits require months of time and considerable money to obtain. EPA estimated that in 2007 an average PSD permit cost $125,120 to obtain and required 301 hours for EPA or a state environmental agency to process.