Breathe Easy

Michigan should follow Arizona's lead with a 'Freedom to Breathe Act'

The trampling of states' rights by the federal government seems to know no bounds. Fueled by the TEA Party movement, which recognizes the importance of the principles of constitutional government and federalism, states are pushing back. One of the latest examples is an effort coming from the Arizona Senate called the "Freedom to Breath Act." The proposed law states that, "Arizona, through its Legislature, has the exclusive authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions produced by humans and other greenhouse gases and substances produced by mechanical or chemical processes, including agricultural operations and waste operations."

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Michigan legislators should follow Arizona's lead.

If Congress passes national cap-and-trade legislation to limit greenhouse gases, the impact on Michigan households and businesses through increased energy costs will be particularly damaging due to Michigan status as a manufacturing state. Even if Congress does not pass legislation limiting carbon dioxide emissions, the EPA is poised to limit carbon dioxide through new regulations. While serving as director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, it was evident to me that the states had little control over air quality decisions. If a state does not comply with federal prescriptions to regulate air emissions, EPA forces compliance through a "federal implementation plan." States that resist face legal actions and heavy sanctions, including loss of federal highway funds. In the case of carbon dioxide emissions the EPA could control virtually all economic development activity in the state by new regulatory requirements.

It remains to be seen how the various courts will rule on Arizona's attempt to reaffirm its sovereignty. Regardless of how the courts rule, it is critical that states affirm the constitutional principle of federalism. History indicates that court decisions will eventually be influenced by the will of the people. Attorney General Mike Cox suing the federal government regarding the federal health care take over. Adopting a "Freedom to Breathe Act" in Michigan would be a good second effort.