PACE in National Journal: Congress Should Pre-Empt EPA Regulations

Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) Responds to Draft MACT Utility Regulations: Energy Capacity, Jobs, and Consumer Costs at Risk
March 16, 2011
EPA Admits Jobs Don’t Matter
April 15, 2011

Last week, the National Journal posed the question “Should President Obama defend, delay, or preempt his administration’s climate-change rules?” PACE provided this response, published in Friday’s edition.

This week, the U.S. House passed legislation to preempt the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases, while the U.S. Senate failed to pass similar legislation. With a promise from President Obama to veto the legislation should it pass – and a potential government shutdown looming – it is unlikely that Congress will preempt the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.

Putting aside the greenhouse gas regulations debate, perhaps there is legislation related to the EPA that President Obama and Congress can agree upon. Yesterday, the House Energy and Power Subcommittee held a hearing on legislation called the “TRAIN Act” by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), which would “require analysis of the cumulative impact of certain rules and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency on global economic competitiveness, energy prices, employment, and reliability of the U.S. bulk power supply.” In other words, the legislation would require the government to conduct an in-depth analysis of the effects of what many are calling the EPA’s “train wreck” of regulations.

With so many regulations on the horizon, it is important that we understand how they will affect energy reliability, jobs, and the economy. We’re unfortunately already seeing the “train wreck” come to fruition with two recently released regulations – the Utility MACT regulations, which will require power plants to install expensive new environmental controls, and water regulations, which will require large power plants to also comply with cumbersome regulations on the man-made cooling water systems.

These regulations place burdensome and unreasonable mandates on energy generators, and will ultimately cause some of our power plants to shut down. They are burdensome in that the regulations are being implemented all at once, requiring power plants to install exorbitantly expensive controls, in some cases on plants that are too old for the new technologies. The likely result is that many plants will go out of service, because electricity providers will find it more economically prudent to close the plants rather than install the technology. This heightens America’s energy insecurity as a whole.

Furthermore, the regulations are unreasonable. The Utility MACT rules are unreasonable because many power plants have already installed pollutant scrubbers and other emission-control technologies based upon what they can afford and what technologies work on the existing power plants. The new water rules are unreasonable, too, because they require power plants to take expensive steps to protect the “ecosystems” (i.e. fish and insects) in the man-made lakes that cool the power plants. And while protecting natural ecosystems is laudable, it seems unreasonable and downright silly to require expensive measures to protect ecosystems that the power plants themselves created.

We can all agree that it’s important to integrate cleaner, renewable sources of energy into the grid where it makes economic sense to do so, and we can all agree that it is important to take steps to preserve air quality and the environment for future generations. However, it is equally important to consider the economic consequences of rushing to achieve these goals, and we should not be allowing regulations to go into effect that will destroy our most affordable and reliable source of energy while threatening jobs and the economy.

Whatever happens in Congress today, and over the coming weeks, I hope that Congress and the Administration can agree upon the need to stop the coming “train wreck” until we fully understand how these regulations will affect energy reliability, jobs, and the economy.