EPA headquarters undergoes expansion to accommodate its 230,000 new employees.

On Wednesday, we joined the numerous media outlets pointing out that an emerging myth that the EPA wants to hire 230,000 workers to enforce greenhouse gas regulations is based on a questionable story by the Daily Caller.

Despite the fact that media watchdogs and the EPA have pointed out that the Daily Caller’s claim is based on a misreading of a legal brief, the website is standing by its story.

But as a colleague (and attorney) points out, the real travesty here is a little less prominent.

Here’s how this all breaks down. The Supreme Court has ruled that greenhouse gases are a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, which means the EPA is required by law to regulate them.

But regulating every single source of greenhouse gases – including, for instance, cow farts – would be a monumental logistical challenge. That’s where the 230,000 number comes from – it’s the number of people the EPA would have to hire to do this.

To avoid this untenable scenario, the EPA establishes what’s called a tailoring rule to limit the regulation to the largest emitters.

Got it so far?

The Daily Caller’s claim at this point is that their story is basically still correct, because the tailoring rule is a temporary thing and the EPA really wants to eventually expand to regulate every single source of greenhouse gases in the U.S.

The fly in the ointment is that this “Tailoring Rule” may also be absurd, since it doesn’t seem to comply with the Clean Air Act. That law doesn’t allow the government to pick and choose which global-warming “polluters” to regulate and which to leave alone. So we may have an all-or-nothing scenario in which the EPA’s hands are tied, and so are taxpayers’.

This is where it gets even more ridiculous. Yes, there is a legal challenge to the tailoring rule, but, it’s industrial polluters that are targeting it (as Media Matters has pointed out). Overturning the tailoring rule forces the EPA back into a politically untenable position of having to hire those 230,000 bureaucrats.

So not only does the EPA not want to have to hire 230,000 people and expand its budget by $2 billion, they’re fighting it in court.

The Daily Caller is correct that the EPA can’t pick and choose which industries to regulate – only Congress can do that. So the tailoring rule has to be presented as a temporary postponement of the full implementation of the rule (remember, they’re required by law to do this), until Congress takes action.

How might Congress take action? One way would be to set up some sort of regulatory structure for greenhouse gas emissions.

You can stop laughing now.

The other way might be to repeal or weaken the Clean Air Act. Which would be a lot easier if you won your legal challenge that would make enforcing the Clean Air Act logistically impossible. Pretty clever, eh?

By declaring this to be “an all-or-nothing scenario in which the EPA’s hands are tied,” the Daily Caller has already ruled on the case. But we’ll see what the courts have to say.

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

2 replies on “The fake EPA story: More absurd than you thought”