“This Thing Is Not Over”: There Always Has Been a Plan B For The Climate Bill

Bill Scher

At Netroots Nation today, Van Jones sought to rally attendees after the Senate leadership put plans for a climate protection bill on the back burner: “This thing is not over.”

He’s right, for one very simple reason. It is against the law under the Clean Air Act, the Supreme Court has ruled, for the Environmental Protection Agency to ignore greenhouse gas pollution. And a congressional attempt to gut the Clean Air Act and block the EPA from acting was defeated this year.

That fact has always been part of the argument to press Senators from coal, oil, manufacturing and agribusiness to accept climate compromises: if Congress doesn’t do it, the EPA will.

And that same fact has always the Obama administration’s Plan B.

The EPA is not going to announce an economy-wide carbon cap overnight. But it has been and will continue to announce a rule here and a rule there, continually ramping up pressure on Congress to pass legislation that will cap carbon emissions in a way that businesses will find more flexible than what the EPA is able to do.

This is part of the reason prospects for a climate bill have remained alive far longer than anyone would have thought considering how far away we are from 60 Senate votes. Even businesses know what is around the corner.

And more and more are willing, if not eager, to cut a deal today to establish certainty on greenhouse gas regulation over the next four decades, instead of trying to tie up new EPA rules in court, which – as the recent Court ruling showed — can’t work forever.

The question of a climate bill is when, not if.

But since the climate crisis has its own clock, it’s our job to fight as hard as possible to make the “when” as soon as possible.

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