January 11 2011
Since Cap-and-Trade legislation is pretty much off the table at the moment as the economy is still in the midst of a sluggish recovery from the recent recession, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving ahead with its own aspirations of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
The agency is taken its steps deliberately slowly amidst the current climate where jobs and the economy are still in the forefront of everyone's mind. Politicians on both sides are emphasizing that they are focused on jobs and the economy, signaling their responsiveness to voters' demands in the previous election. Too swift action on behalf of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions could create significant outrage over the costs imposed on businesses and the consequent job losses expect from such regulation.
Nevertheless, the EPA's carbon-cutting agenda is troubling and promises to create significant problems for jobs, economic growth, and U.S. competitiveness down the road. William F. Shughart II, Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, calls on Congress to rein in the EPA for those very same reasons:
Despite the Obama administration's recent decision to delay new rules regarding smog and emissions from industrial boilers, EPA is preparing to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants and industrial users that consume oil, natural gas and coal beginning in January. The potential cost: cutting back on carbon emissions will force many smaller, coal-fired power-generating plants to shut down, almost certainly raise electricity rates around the country, undermine the international competitiveness of U.S. businesses and send more American jobs overseas. (See Shughart's article for a listing of proposed and already-in-effect EPA regulations, and their costs and job impacts)
Several Republican congress-members have already introduced legislation to halt the EPA in its gears. Two of the rules with more bite--one by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) to defund the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and the other by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to remove the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases--will unlikely make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate. Another rule to delay the EPA's regulations by two years, proposed by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WVA), is more likely going to be successful as it already has the support of several moderate Democrats.
Congressman Fred Upton and Americans for Prosperity's Tim Phillips ask in the Wall Street Journal that, in light of the ongoing and ensuing court cases brought against the EPA's assessment of the endangerment of greenhouse gases and the resulting rules, Congress should delay the regulations--not for two years but-- until the courts have finished their examinations. They write:
The EPA, of course, is in a hurry to move ahead. It wants to begin regulating the largest emitters first. But it has the authority under its endangerment finding to regulate emissions by hospitals, small businesses, schools, churches and perhaps even single-family homes. As companies wait for definitive court rulings, the country could face a de facto construction moratorium on industrial facilities that could provide badly needed jobs. Moreover, the EPA has never completed an analysis of how many jobs might be lost in the process-although Section 321 of the Clean Air Act demands that it do so.
The best solution is for Congress to overturn the EPA's proposed greenhouse gas regulations outright. If Democrats refuse to join Republicans in doing so, then they should at least join a sensible bipartisan compromise to mandate that the EPA delay its regulations until the courts complete their examination of the agency's endangerment finding and proposed rules.
Like the plaintiffs, we have significant doubt that EPA regulations can survive judicial scrutiny. And the worst of all possible outcomes would be the EPA initiating a regulatory regime that is then struck down by the courts.
There are good reasons for why cap-and-trade legislation is off the table. Given the extent of the uncertainty that greenhouse-gas emissions are the main drivers of climate change, and the unreliability and high-cost of energy alternatives such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy, legislation to curb greenhouse gases risks killing jobs, reducing economic growth, and sending American companies to produce overseas. The same applies to EPA regulations.