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Common Sense Environmental Policy

The importance of keeping our environment clean and safe is an issue agreed upon by most Americans. We want a clean environment that is not going to pose a threat for us or for future generations. The importance of not only a healthy environment, but a healthy economy is also shared amongst most if not all Americans. Both of these issues, the environment and the economy, need to be considered when evaluating EPA regulatory decisions. Despite the claims of the Obama administration that the EPA is taking common sense approaches to regulatory decisions, both their words and actions suggest otherwise. 

Region 1 EPA Administrator Curtis Spalding, in a lecture at Yale University this past March, discussed the decision to create the new Utility MACT EPA regulation rule:

“You can’t imagine how tough that was. Because you got to remember if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal. And to say that we just think those communities should just go away, we can’t do that. But she (Lisa Jackson-Administrator of the EPA) had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it’s painful. It’s painful every step of the way.”

Despite the fact that Curtis Spalding and the EPA doesn’t want to destroy local coal communities, this is exactly what they are doing and freely admitting to doing.

In 2008, Obama was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle concerning his cap and trade policy and how that would affect coal and gas power plants:

“What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anybody else’s out there. I was the first to call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum of all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.”

Does this sound like a common sense approach to keeping the environment safe while promoting job growth? He wants to put in place the most aggressive emission standards in place which he freely admits will bankrupt the coal industry. 

Well, he has certainly lived up to his promises as president.  Steve Miller, President and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, has repeatedly petitioned the president and Congress to put in place common sense policy that doesn’t destroy American jobs. He says this about the EPA:

“Recently finalized EPA rules and regulations, including EPA’s Utility MACT rule, are a contributing factor in the announced closure of more than 140 coal units in 20 states. Closing these plants that provide good jobs and tax dollars to local communities is counterproductive to our national goal of reducing unemployment and helping our economy recover.”

Oh and by the way, the billions of dollars Obama wanted to invest into alternative energy sources was also a promise he fulfilled. Under the Bush administration in 2005 and continued by the Obama administration, the Department of Energy (DOE) began its Loan Guarantee Program granting $37 billion dollars of taxpayer money to “alternative energy approaches.” These government sponsored companies have done really well so far--only six have filed for bankruptcy: Solar Millennium Inc., LSP Energy LP, Ener1 Inc., Beacon Power Corp, and Solyndra LLC, and Abound Solar who just filed this past Thursday. 

Al Armendariz, former EPA Region 6 director and recipient of $540,000 in taxpayer funded federal grants, approached his managerial job like the Romans did upon conquering opposing villages. Speaking to a group of citizens in Dish, Texas in 2010 Armendariz said this:  

“The Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there. And, companies that are smart see that, they don't want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it's time to clean up. And, that won't happen unless you have somebody out there making examples of people. So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people violating the law, you go aggressively after them.”

This war-like rhetoric by Armendariz is not the kind of approach that fosters a balance between energy companies and EPA regulation. How does “crucifying” energy companies encourage both a cleaner environment and economic growth? Armendariz later apologized for his comments and resigned his post. 

After hearing of Armendariz comments Larry Keller, a political activist and fracking driller, emailed EPA Director of External Affairs, Dr. David Gray, saying “Hello Mr. Gray. Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello?” In response to this email, two armed agents of the EPA showed up at his door in North Carolina to investigate him! They said that his email could have been taken multiple ways, but quickly left upon his wife returning home. Apparently the EPA not only goes after companies aggressively, but American citizens as well. 

Obama’s “war on coal” and other fossil fuels, is called such not because of the political motives of the right, but because of the language and policies that Obama and his EPA directors have embraced.