As I reported earlier, it looks likely that Virginia Democrat Jim Webb will support Republican Lisa Murkowski’s efforts to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions. Webb’s office won’t state whether he has or will formally sign on to Murkowski’s measure. But it just issued a statement to Mother Jones explaining that the senator opposes EPA regulation of greenhouse gases—not on environmental grounds, but due to his concerns about the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches:
Senator Webb has shared with Senator Murkowski his concerns about the EPA’s latest finding, concerning the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, in the absence of clear congressional involvement and direction. Since his campaign for the U.S. Senate, one of Senator Webb’s principal themes has been to restore and maintain the proper balance of power between the executive branch and Congress. Senator Webb advanced similar arguments, concerning congressional engagement and approval, in August 2008 during the Bush Administration’s negotiation of the Iraq Security Agreements.
He has said on related issues for many years that the regulatory power of the executive branch is derived specifically from the legislative branch. It should be applied narrowly and in strict conformity with the Constitution and clear legislation enacted by the Congress. An executive branch decision to broadly interpret a legislative statute—especially one involving sweeping implications for our country—without such direction from Congress is inappropriate.
By citing the Iraq Security Agreements, Webb is referring to the attempt by the Bush administration in 2008 to unilaterally forge a long-term security arrangement with the government of Iraq. This comparison—and Webb’s contention that the administration would be abusing executive authority by using the EPA to restrict emissions—is an inaccurate one: The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has been granted the authority by Congress, via the Clean Air Act, to regulate carbon dioxide.