GOP is MIA on EPA

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - By Steve Mil­loy

The Obama En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency just con­demned to death an en­tire U.S. in­dus­try — a le­gal and sci­en­tific hor­ror story that con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans failed mis­er­ably to pre­vent.

The EPA’S newly pro­posed green­house gas emis­sion stan­dards for coal­fired power plants will be fi­nal­ized by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, win or lose, af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tion.

Though the pro­posed stan­dards leave alone ex­ist­ing coal­fired power plants, they ef­fec­tively pro­hibit the con­struc­tion of new plants by es­tab­lish­ing an im­pos­si­ble-to-meet emis­sions stan­dard.

But don’t get the idea that the EPA threw the coal in­dus­try a bone by omit­ting ex­ist­ing coal-fired plants, as the agency has al­ready is­sued two reg­u­la­tions — the Cross-state Air Pol­lu­tion Rule and the Mer­cury Air Tox­ics Stan­dard — that will pre­ma­turely re­tire about 20 per­cent of ex­ist­ing coal-fired plants over the next few years.

The sup­posed sci­en­tific grounds for the new EPA green­house gas emis­sions is global warm­ing. But even if you be­lieve that man-made emis­sions are chang­ing cli­mate for the worse, there are two re­al­i­ties that ex­pose the EPA’S moves as purely po­lit­i­cal.

First, if all U.S. coal plant emis­sions were to stop to­day, the av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture might be re­duced over the next 90 years by, at most, an in­signif­i­cant 0.15 de­grees Cel­sius, ac­cord­ing to United Na­tions-ap­proved mod­els. EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor Lisa P. Jack­son es­sen­tially ad­mit­ted to this fu­til­ity in a July 2009 Se­nate hear­ing.

Next, as the United States re­duces its green­house gas emis­sions, the rest of the world, es­pe­cially China, has its emis­sions pedal to the me­tal. It has been es­ti­mated that by 2035 China will be­come the all-time lead­ing emit­ter of green­house gases. That is, in the space of about 45 years, China will have emit­ted more green­house gases than the United States has in 150 years.

So the Obama EPA is ac­com­plish­ing noth­ing with its new power plant rules ex­cept the destruc­tion of the U.S. coal in­dus­try, which has played a lead­ing role in pow­er­ing Amer­ica for more than 100 years.

On the le­gal side, and not­with­stand­ing the nar­row 5-4 Supreme Court rul­ing in Mas­sachusetts v. EPA in 2007 that gave the agency the au­thor­ity to reg­u­late green­house gases, it is ob­vi­ous that when Congress amended the Clean Air Act in 1970, 1977 and 1990, it did not in­tend to pro­vide the agency with au­thor­ity to reg­u­late green­house gases.

It is sim­ply not cred­i­ble that Congress in­tended for the EPA to write emis­sions per­mits for more than 6 mil­lion sources of green­house gases — an ef­fort the agency has es­ti­mated would cost $63 bil­lion and re­quire an ex­tra 250,000 em­ploy­ees over a pe­riod of three years.

But Pres­i­dent Obama has de­cided that the coal in­dus­try should no longer ex­ist and so has or­dered new EPA and other reg­u­la­tory agency con­trols to im­ple­ment his po­lit­i­cal whim. So where is the Re­pub­li­can op­po­si­tion? In their de­feat, Se­nate Repub­li­cans can at least point to the fact that they don’t run their body. Still, Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell’s fail­ure to con­vince Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, Sen. Scott P. Brown, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe and Sen. Su­san M. Collins to vote for Gop-spon­sored bills to rein in the EPA cer­tainly draws into ques­tion his lead­er­ship ca­pa­bil­i­ties, if not his zeal.

On the other side of Capi­tol Hill, House Repub­li­cans have held many hear­ings on the EPA. On oc­ca­sion, some mem­bers have even made an ef­fort to ex­press mild outrage at the agency — that is, when they’re not pan­der­ing to the EPA for con­stituent per­mit ap­provals or hand­outs from the slush funds that the EPA con­trols.

The Gop-con­trolled House has even passed bills to rein in the EPA, but none that had a prayer of pass­ing in the Se­nate.

Although House Speaker John A. Boehner has had the power to threaten the EPA’S bud­get, he has in­ex­pli­ca­bly re­fused to use his only real weapon against the agency.

Con­sid­er­ing that in the 2012 elec­tion cy­cle Repub­li­cans have so far re­ceived 89 per­cent of the coal in­dus­try’s con­tri­bu­tions to po­lit­i­cal par­ties — amount­ing to more than $3 mil­lion — the in­dus­try must be ask­ing it­self why it con­tin­ues to sup­port politi­cians who fail so mis­er­ably.

Iron­i­cally, the coal in­dus­try’s only hope is to sup­port Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates across the board in 2012, in hopes of gain­ing the White House and both houses of Congress. Then, a Gop-con­trolled Congress could pass and a Re­pub­li­can pres­i­dent could sign a sin­gle bill rolling back or over­rid­ing all Obama EPA over­reaches.

Re­cap­tur­ing the White House or Se­nate alone will not be enough to al­ter the fate of the coal in­dus­try. It’s not at all clear that a Re­pub­li­can pres­i­dent would be will­ing to un­dergo a painfully drawn-out process for re­scind­ing EPA reg­u­la­tions on a rule-by-rule ba­sis. Even with a Gop-con­trolled Congress, it’s un­likely that there would be a two-thirds ma­jori­ties to face down Obama ve­toes of ef­forts to rein in the agency.

It ought to shock the con­science that for no sci­en­tific rea­son or le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion at all, a sin­gle reg­u­la­tory agency can uni­lat­er­ally kill off a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try that sup­plies more than 40 per­cent of the na­tion’s electricity — and get away scot-free.

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