AUSTIN – Ten rules currently in the pipeline from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to a report published today by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
“Never in its 40-year history has EPA simultaneously promulgated so many major environmental rules characterized by converging effective dates, massive compliance costs, and mandates exceeding existing technological controls,” said the report’s author, Kathleen Hartnett White. “Nor has EPA before relied on such speculative, manipulated science to justify this most aggressive regulatory agenda to date.”
The report, “The EPA’s Approaching Regulatory Avalanche,” documents the dramatic improvements in air quality since 1980. According to the EPA’s own data, emissions of lead have been reduced by 96 percent; carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide by more than 50 percent; ozone, particulates, and nitrogen dioxide by at least 40 percent; and fine particulates by 36 percent. Additionally, the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area – which had long been one of the most polluted metropolitan areas in the country – met the current federal ozone standard in both 2009 and 2010.
“The current EPA is misusing the Clean Air Act – enacted to protect human health – to force an anti-fossil fuel energy policy repeatedly rejected by Congress,” White wrote. “Under cover of the broad law-like authority delegated to EPA in the Act, the EPA increasingly acts like a fourth branch of government – one unaccountable to the three constitutional branches.”
The 10 rules highlighted in the report cover topics from cross-state air pollution to control technologies for industrial boilers and Portland cement kilns, from ambient air quality standards for ozone and particular matter to greenhouse gas regulation for both stationary and mobile sources. All have effective dates between 2013 and 2016, with the highest impacts in 2015.
The rule with the harshest near-term impact on Texas is the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This rule mandates steep reductions of sulfur dioxide and/or nitrogen oxide in states deemed to affect “downwind” states’ attainment of federal standards for fine particulate matter and ozone.
Texas was brought in under the rule at the end of the process because EPA’s computer models determined that Texas emissions affected one air monitor in Madison County, Illinois – even though both Texas and Madison County attain the standard in question. The rule prompted ERCOT to conclude that Texas could have rolling blackouts if Texas endures another summer as hot as that of last year.
“In its rationale for including Texas in the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the EPA has overestimated the amount of actual wind-powered electric generation by at least 70 percent, the state’s total electric generation capacity by at least 25 percent, and the interchangeability of Texas lignite coal with other sources,” White said. “Texas’ only short-term option for complying with the rule may be to shut down the lignite plants. Texans would lose thousands of jobs, pay sharply higher electricity prices, and face a high risk of rolling blackouts.”
Although a federal court stayed the immediate implementation of the rule, the final outcome remains in question.
Another rule that could cause significant damage to Texas’ economy is the proposed new national ambient air quality standard for ozone. Currently at 85 parts per billion (ppb), the EPA proposes to tighten it to the 60-70 ppb range – at the lower end, as many as 12 Texas regions would become non-attainment areas. These regions would be subject to federally enforceable State Implementation Plans to meet the standards, with sanctions for non-compliance ranging from the loss of federal highway funds to a freeze on road construction up to the imposition of a more onerous Federal Implementation Plan.
The report recommends that the U.S. Congress reclaim its constitutional authority to control the EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act and return to the states the primary authority to implement the law.
“Regulatory impacts of the magnitude likely under EPA’s agenda are ultimately policy choices, certainly not purely scientific decisions,” White said. “The elected members of Congress, not unelected federal employees at EPA, should make these momentous decisions.”
Kathleen Hartnett White is director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. She was commissioner and chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from 2001 to 2007.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.
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