May 29, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon have the chance to improve opportunities for Americans and protect our representative democracy when it decides a case involving the gargantuan power grab by the federal bureaucracy. America’s new competitive manufacturing advantage, utilizing our plentiful natural gas, coal and oil, will be negated by onerous regulations that drive up costs for minuscule, theoretical benefits, if the high court turns a blind eye.
Ronald Reagan’s words in 1980 still ring true: “We will not permit the safety of our people or our environmental heritage to be jeopardized, but we are going to reaffirm that the economic prosperity of our people is a fundamental part of our environment.”
Manufacturers, other business groups and states including Virginia are asking the court to consider the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to embark down a dangerous path. If the EPA goes forward with its plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the unelected bureaucrats at the agency could ultimately extend their reach into nearly all sectors of our economy. If not enjoined, the EPA will remake the U.S. economy, all without the consent of the men and women Americans sent to Congress to make national policy.
The EPA began its regulatory expansion into our homes and entrepreneurial livelihoods in 2009 by asserting that greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to public health. Congress has never explicitly given the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases — the agency interprets its power based on an expansive reading of the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act, however, was not meant to regulate greenhouse gases, a fact that has become readily apparent as the EPA has taken up the rulemaking process. The cascading effect of the EPA ruling that CO2 and other greenhouse gases are pollutants would cause America’s economy to grind to a halt. Almost any new construction, from power plants to apartment buildings — 6 million new facilities in all — would be subject to EPA permitting requirements and the costs and delays that go with them.
In effect, EPA bureaucrats, by regulatory fiat, are dictating the nation’s energy mix. The regulators are deciding which energy sources are allowed and which are off-limits. With the proposed rules on new power plants, the EPA is clearly putting coal in the latter category. The regulations would effectively ban the construction of new, efficient coal-fired power plants. In fact, the new coal power plants can beneficially remove 99 percent of sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain), over 99 percent of nitrogen oxide (which causes smog) and 99 percent of particulate matter. This cleaner generation of electricity is due to great technological advancements. These improvements make sense and are part of the expressed intent of the Clean Air Act.
However, there are no available technologies to remove odorless, colorless carbon dioxide. Naturally occurring CO2 in our atmosphere has been determined to be an endangering pollutant by the EPA bureaucracy. And when the EPA proposes rules on existing power facilities — as it surely will — coal will be out of business in the United States for providing us with affordable, reliable electricity.
The impact of these restrictive policies is being felt, halting manufacturers’ efforts to grow and expand. Since the EPA undertook its greenhouse gas regulations, permits for new facilities have dropped dramatically. American jobs and growth are on hold. According to the American Council for Capital Formation, the uncertainty created by the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations will cause investment to decline by 5 to 15 percent in industries that face a direct impact, like manufacturing. Overall, the rules could result in as many as 1.4 million fewer jobs.
These assaults by the EPA will most likely drive up the costs of residential heating and power bills. The folks hurt worst by these regressive energy policies that cause us to pay higher prices for electricity are lower- and middle-income working families struggling to make ends meet.
Coal, however, will not be the only target. For manufacturers, the lesson from the EPA’s aggressive agenda is clear: Regulations on new power plants are only the beginning. Your enterprise could be next.
Left unchecked, the EPA will continue marching toward regulating nearly the entire economy: first power plants, then refineries, energy development, mining, paper manufacturing, heavy manufacturing, small manufacturers, even commercial kitchens. Ultimately, the EPA can wield its power over all but the smallest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
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