Congress needs to act on the EPA

Lance Brown Contributor
Font Size:

It’s less than two weeks until the midterm elections, and high turnover of the U.S. House is all but expected by many analysts. It’s clear that, political beliefs aside, many U.S. citizens are unhappy with the accomplishments — or lack of accomplishments — Congress has logged on a variety of pressing issues.

And whatever happens on November 2, Congress has a lot of work to do — especially in terms of energy policy, creating new jobs, and reversing the economic downturn while getting our country back on the path to sustained prosperity. Regardless of which party emerges with the gavel in January, the new Congress needs to take a close look at our energy policies and work to roll back over burdensome and expensive regulations while finding ways to utilize all of our diverse resources to develop an affordable and reliable energy plan for our country.

Congress has two steps to take to get us on the path to an affordable, reliable energy future — and economic growth. First, Congress needs to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from enacting oppressive and expensive regulations on our nation’s energy industries and consumers. Second, Congress needs to find ways to incorporate our rich variety of resources into an energy plan that benefits the cost and reliability of energy, rather than choosing certain energy sources over others.

On January 2, 2011, the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations go into effect, requiring many energy producers to purchase expensive pollution permits. The regulations will result in a loss of energy capacity and jobs.

The Financial Times reported yesterday that as a result of the EPA regulations, “closures of US coal-fired power plants are set to accelerate sharply during the coming decade” and result in the loss of approximately one-fifth of our coal-fired capacity. Even if plants could afford to comply with the regulations, many plants will simply be unable to make the needed adjustments due to age or other complicating factors. We’ll not only lose the jobs associated with these plants, but we’ll also lose a great deal of capacity of our most affordable and reliable source of power.

The regulations won’t just impact coal — although that would be bad enough, since about half of our energy comes from coal. The final greenhouse gas rule also includes some of our more affordable and reliable forms of clean energy, like renewable woody biomass. This contradicts long-held science and policy that carbon emitted via the combustion of woody biomass is part of a carbon-neutral cycle, since forests are constantly replanted — and contradicts the administration’s goal of incorporating more renewable energy sources into our energy portfolio.

To make matters worse, the EPA doesn’t seem to know or care what kind of impact the regulations will have on the economy. According to U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that “the EPA is not required, and they do not consider, jobs or economic impact when evaluating permits.” And, according to a Congressional aide, as reported by Politico, the EPA shows “no real indication that they hear or understand…concerns” about the impact of the regulations on both traditional and renewable energy production and jobs.

It’s clear, then, that Congress needs to take action to stop the EPA from regulating our traditional and renewable energy sources. I urge all of our U.S. Senators and Representatives to contact the EPA and other members of the administration to tell them to re-think the greenhouse gas regulations — and if necessary, enact laws that will stop the EPA entirely.

Second, once Congress stops the EPA from crippling our most reliable and affordable energy sources and associated energy jobs, our elected officials need to get to work on an energy plan that helps, rather than hinders, the cost and reliability of energy and the growth of jobs and the economy. Congress should not enact draconian and expensive regulations, like cap and trade or a federal renewable energy standard, because these would cause just as much hardship as the EPA regulations. Instead, we should seek to incorporate all of our energy options into a plan that helps us lower energy costs and create jobs. Congress can incentivize the use of renewable energy and technological innovations, like woody biomass or energy efficiency standards or electric cars, but should not require every state to follow the same renewable energy standards because every state has access to different energy options.

Above all, it’s clear that whoever takes the oath of office in January, they need to work to help us find new, affordable energy options without destroying the energy options that are already affordable and reliable. After all, the people aren’t happy with Congress’s work on energy so far, and enacting laws or regulations that raise energy costs or deter job creation won’t make the people any happier.

Lance Brown is the Executive Director of PACE.