Energy Czar Raises Possibility Of EPA Implementing Cap-And-Trade

There's more than one way to get cap-and-trade, President Obama's energy czar said today.

Carol Browner, the former Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) administrator who now serves in the Obama administration's newly created role of energy czar, floated the possibility today of the EPA implementing cap-and-trade energy policies, during an interview at The Atlantic's First Draft of History symposium in Washington, DC.

"We also have the reality of EPA, under current law, moving start the traditional regulatory clock," Browner said when asked, during an interview with Atlantic Media Political Director Ronald Brownstein, about the difficulties of passing the stalled energy/climate bill--which would implement a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme--through the Senate.

Starting that "clock," as Browner puts it, would "obviously encourage the business community to raise their voices in Congress"--since businesses could wind up with a less cohesive regulatory scheme, more difficult to comply with in multiple states, if the EPA moves forward on its own.

Environmentalists have pushed for the EPA to implement emissions reforms if Democrats can't pass a bill, circumventing the politics of Congress and using the EPA's environmental authority to get the job done, and there's a pending Supreme Court case on the matter.

But it's not viewed as a likely scenario--which some members of the environmental community readily admit--even as the reforms passed by the House have become mired in the upper chamber, with analysts skeptical that a formidable cap-and-trade plan will pass.

The Obama administration strongly prefers a congressional consensus, as creating a cap-and-trade scheme would be a massive, controversial, and perhaps unprecedented undertaking for the EPA.

And after floating the possibility of circumventing legislative difficulties, Browner made that point.

EPA action "is a little bit more diff, there are ways it can be done...but it's much better if Congress does it, and that's what the president wants," adding that legislation is "absolutely" the administration's preference over EPA action.