One by one, the artifacts of President Barack Obama’s rule by administrative fiat are tumbling.
The latest is his signature Clean Power Plan that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says he’ll begin the arduous process of unwinding.
The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has been characterized — despite his bumptiousness — not by executive overreach, but executive retrenchment. The populist Trump has operated within constitutional lines better than his technocratic predecessor, who used tendentious readings of the law and sweeping bureaucratic actions to impose his policies on immigration, health care, college campuses and the environment.
The Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce US carbon emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, was government by the administrative state on a scale that has never been attempted before. The EPA took a dubious reading of a portion of the Clean Air Act (Section III, which arguably prevented the agency from taking this action rather than empowered it to do so) and used it to mandate that the states adopt far-reaching plans to reduce carbon emissions, under threat of the loss of federal highway funds.
The legal foundation of the Clean Power Plan was so rickety that the Supreme Court took the extraordinary step of blocking its implementation pending all the lawsuits against it.
The presumption of the plan was jaw dropping. The EPA usually targets pollutants; carbon dioxide isn’t one (though the Supreme Court erroneously said it meets the definition in the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA).