The biggest danger to the U.S. construction sector is not the sub-prime mortgage crisis … it is the chance that this Administration, or the next, will regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act (CAA). As The Heartland Institute notes, once CO2 is deemed “regulated” under the CAA, no new or existing “major” stationary source of CO2 can be built or modified without first obtaining a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit.

The problem with CAA regulation of CO2, is that the Act was never designed to regulate an emission as prevalent as CO2. Under the CAA “major” stationary sources are defined as places that emit at least 100 tons per year of an air pollutant, or any other source with the potential to emit 250 tons per year of an air pollutant. The 100/250 tons per year threshold was originally based on emission levels of traditional pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. However, CO2 differs in that 100 or 250 tons per year is not an unusually large amount.

Most large buildings heated by furnaces using fossil fuels (office and apartment buildings, and even some very large homes), or buildings of any size using natural gas as a cooking source in a commercial kitchen (such as restaurants, hotels, for-profit hospitals and nursing homes, malls, and sports arenas), or businesses that generate or use CO2 naturally as a component of their operations (soda manufacturers, bakers, breweries, wineries) may exceed the 250 tons per year threshold for CO2 emissions.

Heartland estimates that “the regulatory burden is so enormous, and the number of required PSD permits so staggering, that construction in cities across the country will literally stop the minute CO2 is “regulated” under the act.” Congress can act now to prevent this economic disaster by passing legislation exempting CO2 and all other greenhouse gases from PSD permitting authority under the CAA.