Bill would force EPA to report costs of regulations

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Ever wonder how much new environmental regulations add to your power bill? Newly introduced legislation aims to increase the transparency surrounding the costs of environmental regulations through detailing their impact on costs, jobs, and energy prices.

The bill introduced by Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy would require the Environmental Protection Agency to submit a report detailing certain economic impacts to Congress before finalizing new energy-related rules that cost more than $1 billion.

“The EPA’s power to regulate is also the power to destroy,” said Cassidy. “It makes no sense for the EPA to issue burdensome regulations that will hurt our energy economy and cost American families thousands of jobs. It’s time to stop the EPA from hurting job creation and American families.”

The bill also requires the energy secretary to examine the rule to ensure that it won’t be too damaging to the economy. If the energy secretary rules that it would be, the EPA would not be permitted to finalize the rule.

EPA regulations have had significant effects on manufacturing and the energy industry, in particular coal.

According to congressional testimony by Paul Cicio, president Industrial Energy Consumers of America, the EPA imposes 972 regulations on the manufacturing sector alone and imposes regulatory costs totaling $117 billion.

A study done last year by National Economic Research Associates examining the impact of just seven major EPA regulations on coal-fueled electric generation found that up to 69,000 megawatts of coal-fueled electric generation will be shut down due to those regulations, and up to 887,000 jobs would be lost per year. NERA also found that total compliance costs for the electric sector could be as high as $220 billion, or $16.7 billion per year.

However, critics of the bill said that it simply served the interests of fossil fuel industry and that the benefits of environmental regulations far exceed the costs.

Rena Steinzor, professor at University of Maryland Carey School of Law and president of the Center for Progressive Reform, said that the bill “would block certain EPA regulations that corporations in the energy industry find inconvenient.”

“The best way to think about the [bill] is as a huge subsidy for the highly profitable companies that comprise the fossil fuel industry — adding to the already massive subsidies these companies already receive,” Steinzor added.

“The health and economic benefits of the Clean Air Act far exceed compliance costs,” said William Rom M.D. of the American Thoracic Society. “External analysis of 1990-2020 benefits of the Clean Air Act standards estimate that the $65 billion spent to comply with pollution standards will result in $2 trillion in avoided health expenditures by 2020.”

“Even under the most conservative cost benefit analysis — which removes the cost savings attributed to air pollution control driven reductions mortality — Clean Air Act standards will still generate $137 billion in benefits versus an estimated $65 billion in compliance costs,” Rom added.

Republicans have been increasingly pressing the EPA on transparency issues, including former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s use of an alias email account to conduct official business and the agency’s use of secret data sets to formulate air quality regulations.

“EPA has continually refused to make public the basic scientific data underlying virtually all of the Agency’s claimed benefits from new Clean Air Act (CAA) rules,” wrote Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith and Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter in a letter to EPA nominee Gina McCarthy. “Everyone agrees on the importance of clean air, but EPA needs to release the secret data they use in formulating new rules.”

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