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Investor's Business Daily | 05/07/1998

Editorial E D I T O R I A L Kyoto Duplicity

Say this much for President Clinton: He doesn't let a little thing like the Constitution get in the way of his policy goals. He wants to put the Kyoto global warming treaty in place without Senate ratification.

The administration was clearly bent on signing the Kyoto pact - no matter the cost or science. Before the deal was inked in December, Clinton said, "If we expect others to show restraint, we must do the same, and we must lead the way."

Vice President Al Gore sang the same tune in early December: "Whether there is an agreement in Kyoto or not, the United States is prepared, under President Clinton's leadership, to unilaterally take steps that we believe should be taken in order to deal with this problem."

Other countries noted Clinton's white flag and took the U.S. to the cleaners. The Gore-led delegation went in committed to cutting emissions to 1990 levels and winning promises of action from the developing world. The U.S. came out of those talks agreeing to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 7% below 1990 levels by 2012 without getting developing countries to do anything meaningful.

The Senate has already expressed its skepticism in a unanimous vote that said, in essence, "no developing countries, no deal." So the White House has refused to submit the treaty for the Senate's OK.

Instead, the administration has moved to implement the terms of Kyoto in an end run around the Constitution.

Consider the evidence:

* Electric utilities. Clinton said that deregulation must be done "in a way that leads to even greater progress in cleaning our air and delivers a significant down payment in reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

An internal Environmental Protection Agency memo on that same topic broadly asserted that the agency "has authority under the Clean Air Act to establish pollution control requirements" for carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury (emphasis in original).

Well, no. The Clean Air Act grants the EPA explicit authority only over sulfur dioxide. Anything else is a stretch, so that the EPA can, in its own words, "meet our (Kyoto) greenhouse gas emissions budget."

And the memo hints that the EPA knows it doesn't have such authority. "What is needed is smarter, not more extensive, authority - enhanced authority as to how EPA may control these pollutants" (emphasis in original).

* Energy efficiency. The president announced a partnership with the building industry on Monday to assure greater energy efficiency in housing. Over the next decade, he aims to cut in half energy consumed in newly built homes and slash its use in existing housing 30%. Clinton officials acknowledged the program is an attempt to get around Congress' skepticism on the Kyoto treaty.

* Treaty spending. On specific budget items dealing with meeting the Kyoto goals, the administration has been mute. Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., in early March wrote 22 agencies with climate change as part of their portfolio to ask about these programs, their purposes and spending levels.

Only five agencies had replied by the day before McIntosh held a hearing on the matter April 23. Just 10 of the 22 that McIntosh wrote have responded as of May 5. The Office of Management and Budget has not replied to a March 2 letter asking about budget discrepancies, historical data and the like.

* Executive orders . As Eric Peters recounted in the Viewpoint space Tuesday, Clinton may resort to using dormant executive orders to carry out global warming aims by decree.

All the while, the EPA is quietly putting the squeeze on the states.

Rhode Island Democratic state Sen. William Walaska told Congress last month that the EPA and "other agencies have begun a concerted effort to exert pressure on state environment agencies to implement programs designed to meet Kyoto emission reduction goals."

Walaska referred to a brochure for a conference the EPA co- sponsored that proclaimed the U.S. "must now begin designing policies and programs to meet this (emissions) reduction goal." The Rhode Islander is far from the only state official complaining.

With all these efforts, it's small wonder that Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., introduced a bill last week to prevent spending designed to help implement the Kyoto accord. And the House is deciding how to approach cutting funding for Kyoto-furthering programs on climate change.

It's obvious the Clinton folks are convinced that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is needed. Yet they still haven't submitted to the Senate the treaty they hailed late last year.

They know the Senate is likely to vote it down. It's too costly and is based on, to be generous, inexact science. So rather than trying to defend the treaty on these shaky grounds, the White House is trying to mask its actions - no matter what the Constitution says.


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