Sounding The Alarm – New Regulations On The Way From The EPA

Last week, President Obama marked the next step in his second term agenda in a speech about global warming and the EPA. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) began sounding the alarm immediately about the current regulatory nightmare that has removed local control over environmental decisions, and the new regulations that are on the way out of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When you start digging into the ALEC report on the actions of the EPA under the Obama administration, a bleak and troubling picture emerges. The EPA has been charged with expanding its role in regulating almost every aspect of American life. This will result in less individual freedom, less local control and more power being consolidated at the federal level, and the economic impact will be nothing short of devastating.

The initiative laid out by Obama in his speech that garnered the most attention was the so-called War on Coal. We all remember his quote during the campaign in 2008, when he said that under his plan, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket and coal would become virtually obsolete. His ambition is about to come to fruition. As ALEC reveals at their blog,

As time goes on, the EPA has continued to implement rules that will severely damage the American coal industry.  In February 2012, for example, the EPA promulgated a rule known as the Utility MACT. It will cost the power industry—and, ultimately, electricity ratepayers—almost $10 billion annually.

Similar regulations have also been proposed by the EPA.  One, known as the Cooling Water Intake rule under the Clean Water Act, would cost up to $4.8 billion every year, in order to protect fish larvae from being sucked into the cooling systems of coal- and nuclear-fired power plants. Pursuant to a “sue and settle” agreement*, the EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to finalize the rule Cooling Water Intake rule by July 2013. Another pending regulation, known as the Coal Combustion Residual rule, could result in the classification of coal ash as a toxic substance, at a total cost of $55 billion to $76 billion.

[* I blogged about Sue and Settle here last week.]

The blog post goes on to point out that these new regulations would be on top of the carbon pollution standard and the carbon emission regulation for EXISTING power plants. This is on top of the uphill battle faced by coal producers in opening up new Asian markets for export, as I’ve previously blogged about here here here and here. The war on coal is real, and it is intended to kill the industry outright.

But the war on coal is only the most prominent of several regulatory battles being waged by Obama’s EPA. They are also attempting to mount a similar campaign against fracking, the hydraulic fracturing technique that has allowed energy companies to release oil and natural gas from underground areas where it was previously inaccessible. The ALEC blog reports,

The EPA … is actively trying to expand its own authority to regulate fracking. In 2012, Fred Hauchman, director of EPA’s Office of Science Policy within the Office of Research & Development, said that the agency is doing “a pretty comprehensive look at all the statutes to determine where “holes” may allow for additional federal oversight.”

In their report, ALEC tells several stories that indicate that the EPA will try anything to subvert the studies of local and state officials in an attempt to bully states and turn the court of public opinion against fracking:

In December 2010, for example, the EPA ordered Fort Worth, Texas-based Range Resources Corporation, a nat­ural gas company, to provide drinking water to residents in Parker County. EPA tests had concluded that fracking operations by the company “caused or contributed to the contamination of at least two residential drinking water wells.” The EPA rendered this decision over the staunch objection of Texas officials, who argued that water in the Parker County wells had been contaminated by naturally occurring methane. Subsequent lab tests by the state’s Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas ex­traction in Texas, exonerated Range Resources. The EPA dropped the order a year and a half later, in an apparent concession that state officials had gotten it right.

In December 2011, the EPA issued a bombshell press re­lease, alleging that an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyoming, “like­ly” had been contaminated by fracking. Despite the grav­ity of the announcement, the EPA issued the press release after having reviewed only preliminary data, and before the peer-review process. Problems soon surfaced with the EPA’s science, as Wyoming state regulators balked at the federal government’s methodology. Specifically, state offi­cials maintained that the EPA’s inexpert drilling to collect water samples had led to the contamination. These con­cerns led the U.S. Geological Survey to agree to perform an independent retest of the Pavillion water samples. On the basis of those results, the oil and gas industry called on the EPA to withdraw its preliminary conclusions. The EPA has since delayed the peer review process of its Pavil­ion results, to the chagrin of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

In January 2012, the EPA issued a press release announc­ing that the agency would test water samples from Di­mock, Pennsylvania, where residents alleged that frack­ing had contaminated well water. The EPA did so over the objection of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, who had asked the EPA not to second-guess the state’s handling of the mat­ter. In a critical response to the letter, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson insinuated that Pennsylvania was failing to ensure the protection of its own citizens. Three months later, the agency quietly informed Dimock residents that their well water had not been contaminated.

But the most insidious of the EPA’s attempt to create new regulations may be the one that is furthest off the radar of most Americans – ozone. After all, didn’t we solve the ozone layer problem in the 80s when we stopped using so much AquaNet and stopped listening to hair bands?

Evidently not, according to the EPA. They are currently working on new ozone and carbon dioxide standards that would cripple a wide swath of industries across the nation:

The EPA is currently working on an ozone standard that could plunge 76 to 96 percent of the country into NAAQS-nonattainment. As a result, virtually all states’ ability to develop industry would be seriously compromised. The compliance costs with a new ozone standard would be staggering. According to a National Association of Manufacturers study, a proposed 60 ppb ozone standard would lead to a total of $1 trillion in annual compliance costs and 7.3 million jobs lost.

Moreover, in April 2012, EPA proposed a regulation, known as the Carbon Pollution Standard, which would essentially ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Also, President Obama noted in his recent speech that he wants the EPA to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants as well. Currently, coal is used to generate about 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, and the percentage is much higher in states with significant coal resources.  The EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standard effectively bans new coal-fired power plants by requiring them to capture their greenhouse gas emissions; such a technology has never been proven to be commercially viable.  Regulation of existing plants will likely increase electricity rates significantly.

President Obama and his regulatory apparatus clearly do not have the best interests of all Americans in mind. His laser-like focus on jobs seems to be more about eliminating them than it has been on creating them.  His vision for our nation has been obscured by environmental alarmism and punctuated by centralized control in the hands of federal bureaucrats.