The National Journal recently posed the following question to its panel of energy experts: ‘What energy and environment policies are at stake in the spending and debt debates now dominating Washington?’ The following is a response from PACE Executive Director Lance Brown that appeared on Friday, July 29th.
During this time of intense debate regarding our growing national debt, I, for one, am glad to see Members of Congress taking a stand against regulations that will do great damage to our economy. The FY2012 EPA/Interior spending bill will rein in numerous overly aggressive environmental regulations, namely Utility MACT and the Cross State Air Pollution rule. Both rules threaten to saddle consumers with higher costs by imposing timelines on the energy industry that are simply impractical and possibly impossible to achieve.
If the EPA implements Utility MACT regulations as drafted, closures of U.S. coal-fired power plants will accelerate sharply during the coming decade and will result in the loss of an estimated one-fifth of our coal-fired capacity. And the Cross State Air Pollution rule “intended to limit the effect of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) across state lines” would force states like Texas to raise power rates and reduce the amount of power available to the state.
Put simply, if these several EPA regulations are implemented at once – as they are recommending – the end result will be an economic train wreck. And consumers, as always, pay the price in terms of dollars and reliability.
Opponents assert the spending bill will strip away all controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries and factories. Representative Henry Waxman went so far to say it would restore the country to the “robber-baron era.” But the truth is America’s energy industry already complies with a slew of regulations that limit the amount of pollution that is released into the air. Such regulations have led to a 71% reduction in SO2 emissions since 1980 and a 66% drop in NOx since 1997. In light of those figures, which come from the EPA itself, Waxman’s depiction of U.S regulatory policy seems woefully out-of-touch.
At a time when EPA should be carefully considering proposals that could cause economic hardship, the agency in some cases is actually accelerating the rate of sweeping regulations. As John Engler recently pointed out, the EPA is jumping the gun on tightening air-quality standards; the EPA isn’t even scheduled to complete its own scientific analysis of ozone emissions until 2013! So instead of allowing for sufficient time to review studies and receive comments from experts, the EPA has once again moved to enforce regulations without sufficient evidence.
Further analysis into federal standards that will cost consumers and communities billions of dollars shouldn’t be too much to ask, particularly since the EPA has admitted they don’t take jobs into account when proposing new regulations. If they did, the EPA would realize heavy-handed regulations with unrealistic timelines for compliance ultimately result in plant closures, job loss, increased energy costs for consumers, and jeopardized grid reliability.
If Congress is serious about reducing America’s debt, it should consider the following: sometimes jump-starting the economy requires hitting the brakes. In this case, stopping the EPA from taking America down the wrong road.