Could Congress Fight Global Warming By . . . Invalidating Local Prohibitions of Clotheslines?

As the Times’ Kathleen Hughes points out today, some 60 million Americans are governed by laws that prohibit them from hanging a clothesline and line drying their laundry. What does this have to do with global warming? As she explains:

There were more than 88 million dryers in the country in 2005, the latest count, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. If all Americans line-dried for just half a year, it would save 3.3% of the country’s total residential output of carbon dioxide, experts say.

But what is the law preventing such activism? Thousands of homeowners’ associations have covenants doing so. Yes, that most American of traditions, the clothesline, is often outlawed by that most suburban of traditions—the private agreement governing the aesthetics of the subdivision. (There is a real irony here I will resist commenting upon.) Individuals are not without options. But it got me thinking (especially given how my friends are always telling me I’m nuts for writing off federal authority when it comes to solving complicated social problems): would Congress have the constitutional power to invalidate all these covenants?

It would not be unprecedented: Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibited the enforcement of any covenant or ordinance banning satellite dishes of less than a meter in diameter. See, e.g., Daly v. River Oaks Place Council, 59 S.W.3d 416 (Tex. App. 2001). Although . . . maybe it would be a taking under the Court’s mangled jurisprudence of constitutional property.