Who knows how many rules by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encompass our daily lives and regiment our businesses. This July, however, the EPA proposed the mother of all economy-controlling environmental rules.
Called an “Advanced Notice for Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to Regulate Greenhouse Gases,” the proposal uses existing law to assert EPA regulatory jurisdiction far, far wider and deeper than before. They even want to permit your lawnmower!
The number of entities required to obtain one type of permit would increase from 15,000 to 550,000, by EPA’s estimate. This unprecedented reach of EPA authority disproportionately hurts Texas because we are the nation’s leading energy producer, the most productive economy, and the second largest state population.
As the chief executive of our state and an appropriate national voice on the matter, Governor Rick Perry has vigorously responded to this EPA blueprint for disaster.
As the Governor’s letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson states, “Simply put, Texas fuels the nation,” through conventional and diverse new energy sources and technologies. The Governor summarized grave concerns about this “unprecedented expansion of EPA regulation …, the massive costs that will be imposed on our economy and the certainty that the proposed regulation will fail to achieve the intended goals … given the global nature of these emissions.”
On November 25, Gov. Perry held a press conference to highlight his response to the EPA. He was accompanied by agency leaders recently named to a Governor’s Advisory Group on Federal Environmental Regulation.
The report from Gov. Perry’s Advisory Group, “Potential Impacts to Texas of the EPA’s Proposed Framework for Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” reveals what implementation of the ANPR would mean. Combining expertise from multiple agencies, the report translates the 600-plus page ANPR into plain English.
As a startling example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that EPA jurisdiction would extend to more than 3,800 farms, 28,000 beef cattle operations, and 640 dairy operations in Texas alone. The CO2 limits would extend permitting requirements over large office buildings, churches, hospitals, hotels, and large residential homes. Impact on the energy sector would cause energy shortages and soaring costs for consumers. State government would exponentially grow in size and cost merely for paperwork compliance.
The ANPR is a legally unnecessary response to a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that CO2 could be considered a pollutant. The Court ruled that the EPA must legally justify its discretionary answer to the following question: is CO2 a pollutant endangering human health within the legal meaning of the Clean Air Act? The EPA has yet to make this “endangerment finding” and instead turned to policy opposed by the White House and denounced by five other Cabinet secretaries.
A justifiable response to the Supreme Court is simple. CO2 is wholly unlike pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act. In ambient concentrations, CO2 is a harmless and beneficial gas, uniformly distributed across the world. EPA’s adoption of a numeric National Ambient Air Quality Standard for any greenhouse gas is preposterous. If, as emerging empirical science is disproving, CO2 accumulations increase global temperature, this occurs in the troposphere, not at ground level. Man-made CO2 from fossil fuel use contributes only 5 percent of global CO2.
Federal policymakers have allowed scientifically questionable environmental policy to supplant energy policy. With an ever-widening economic downturn, carbon regulation without sufficient energy alternatives right now means disaster.
A realistic, environmentally sound national energy policy would, as Gov. Perry recommends: assure reliable, affordable energy from all viable sources, including coal; promote modernization of the nation’s transmission grid; remove barriers to nuclear generation; accelerate development of carbon capture and sequestration technologies; and provide long-term regulatory and tax certainty for energy development and technologies.
The President-elect says he likely will direct EPA to proceed with this wild rule. Federal policymakers need a strong Texas voice on energy and environment. Gov. Perry capably expressed this voice and I so hope he continues to do so.
Kathleen Hartnett White is Director of the Center for Natural Resources at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.