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Earlier this month the EPA filed a 161-page brief suggesting that, unless they were given broad discretion, in order to enforce existing pollution laws they would need Americans to file an additional 6,100,000 (no, that is not a typo-- over six million) permit applications and the EPA would have to hire an additional 230,000 bureaucrats to process those permit applications.

It would be funny, except that it's no joke.

This happened because after Cap and Trade failed to get political traction, the EPA used it's authority under the Clean Air Act to drastically increase regulatory controls. As Jonathan Adler writes:

These controls could represent the largest expansion of federal environmental regulation in decades, and yet they have never been explicitly endorsed, let alone authorized, by Congress.

Now that carbon dioxide is labelled a "pollutant," and thousands and thousands of commercial and residential buildings emit carbon dioxide, according to the letter of the law, all of them must file for permits. The EPA says that processing those permits will cost $21 billion and require 230,000 people.

The legal brief makes it clear that the EPA doesn't want to enforce the law this way. What would they like? The discretion to decide where the Clean Air Act is going to apply and where it isn't. The bureaucrats will decide. The EPA agrees that hiring 230,000 bureaucrats to enforce this law to the letter is "absurd," but that doesn't mean they want the law to go away. They would like to have the law apply to some of the bigger companies-- and they would decide which ones.

When my staff contacted the EPA to ask about this, the EPA sent links to two blogs (here and here) which they say debunk the Daily Caller report that blew the lid off this story earlier this week.

But they didn't answer the question: Where exactly would the EPA draw the line in terms of who has to file for the permits? And why should bureaucrats have that much authority?

I won't hold my carbon dioxide waiting for them to answer.