Fifty three of the Senate's 59 Democrats gave unelected, overpaid bureaucrats at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a green light yesterday to do pretty much whatever they choose in their quixotic crusade against global warming. All 41 Republicans and six brave Democrats voted for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's resolution nullifying the EPA's recent usurpation of authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate the U.S. economy to combat greenhouse gases. Thankfully, this craven surrender of congressional authority isn't the last word on the issue, assuming that the November elections produce a Senate with enough backbone to reassert the legislature's rightful power.
In the meantime, it's vital to understand how bureaucracies function. Whatever else they may do, leading bureaucrats always do two things, regardless of which party controls the White House or Congress: They limit choices available to the rest of us by imposing regulations that increase government power and thus justify expanding their budgets and staffs; and they protect themselves and their turf by suppressing internal dissent, often at any costs.
As an example of the latter, consider career EPA scientist Alan Carlin. Last year, Carlin went through all the proper channels in submitting a study to the EPA's top leadership in which he raised serious questions about the credibility of scientific reports used to justify the agency's decision to regulate greenhouse gases. Carlin's study became public thanks to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Carlin's reward was to be publicly pilloried by President Obama's EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson. His work was suppressed within the agency, and he was threatened with additional retaliation if he continued voicing his views. Rather than endure this bureaucratic muzzling, Carlin retired.
Similarly, EPA lawyers Allan Zabel and Laurie Williams -- a married couple living in San Francisco who between them have four decades of experience at the agency -- became so concerned last year about the EPA's support of cap-and-trade legislation that they created a YouTube video titled "The Huge Mistake" to explain their case. They made it clear that the video represented only their personal opinions, but the EPA still ordered them to change the video's content or face severe punishment.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., predicts that a suffocating new round of EPA regulations will soon descend upon the "one-fifth of our restaurants, one-fourth of our schools, two-thirds of our hospitals and doctor's offices, 10 percent of our churches, thousands of farms and millions of small businesses" that emit greenhouse gases. Considering how the EPA grandees mistreat their underlings, we wonder how the agency will respond to the soon-to-be-swelling ranks of critics on the outside.