The troubling consequences of EPA regulations

Lance Brown Contributor
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I’d like to re-visit a quote from Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), circa 1996:

“Overburdensome and unnecessary federal regulations can choke the life out of small businesses by imposing costly and often-ineffectual remedies to problems that may not exist.”

The quote was in reference to his prized Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the power to reject regulations from the president or a federal agency, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, that it deems “overburdensome.”

I wrote about this quote in May, when Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was attempting to invoke the Congressional Review Act to stop the agency from enforcing its proposed “overburdensome and unnecessary federal regulations” on emissions.

With Congress out of session—and thus taking no action on energy right now after Sen. Reid failed to bring the oil spill bill to the floor—the energy news is all about the EPA’s pending regulations, “sector by sector,” according to Carbon Positive.

With the EPA set to begin issuing emissions permits as early as January 2011, it’s more important than ever for Congress to stop these job-killing regulations and to develop an affordable, comprehensive energy plan for our country.

The EPA plans to regulate emissions from a variety of sources, ranging from power plants and factories, to schools and hospitals, to trucks and cars. The EPA would begin regulating large sources (like power plants) as early as January, and regulate smaller emitters (like public buses) by 2016.

By all accounts, the regulations are overburdensome and will result in increased costs for everyone, businesses and consumers alike. As the State of Texas said in a complaint filed (and rejected) by the EPA, the agency’s plan “imposes significant uncertainty on entities that employ thousands of Texans and threatens the livelihood of their employees who depend upon those facilities for their jobs.”

As so-called “emitters” are forced to comply with the regulations, they will raise prices on whatever goods or services they produce—energy or otherwise—or cut jobs in order to comply, if they don’t shut down entirely.

A troubling example of the potential job loss likely to result from these regulations is the woody biomass industry.  In many states throughout the country, biomass is the only domestic renewable energy source available to provide any meaningful supply of baseload power.  Many of these states even count this sustainable power source as a clean and sustainable energy source that helps them comply with their own renewable energy mandates.   But as part of their effort to “tailor” their regulations, the EPA has arbitrarily determined that these sources will also be lumped in with their carbon regulations.  Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) noted in June, that “the permitting requirements on businesses such as Maine’s biomass plants and papermills…could well result in a loss of jobs, leading to mill and plant closings and discouraging employers from investing in mills.” She added that at least 14 facilities in Maine alone would potentially be at risk, so imagine the impact nationwide from an overly broad approach to dealing with energy regulations. These are jobs that our country can’t afford to shed while we are in the middle of our recovery from the recess.

Sadly, it won’t just be the renewable biomass industry in Maine that will be set back from the EPA’s planned regulations. The entire economy will likely be weighed down by the high cost and burden of compliance with the EPA’s rules. We’ll not only see more jobs lost, but we’ll also see higher prices for consumers on everything ranging from energy bills to bus fares to the cost of farm or factory goods.

Even worse, these rules will be enacted without the consent of the governed, simply because the administration is eager to get an energy law on the books, regardless of whether or not that energy law makes sense in terms of cost or reliability. With so many energy bills proposed in the Senate over the past year, there is no need to allow the EPA to go forward with these regulations. Congress needs to do its job and develop an affordable and reliable energy plan for our country that doesn’t bankrupt businesses and consumers.

Hopefully, Sen. Reid will make good on his promise to Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) to allow a vote before Election Day on his bill to delay the EPA regulations for two years. And hopefully, Sen. Rockefeller’s and Sen. Collins’s colleagues will realize the importance of stopping these, as Senator Reid might say, “overburdensome and unnecessary regulations.”

Lance Brown is the Executive Director of PACE.