Last chance for GOP to stop EPA train wreck

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The next month is a good time for Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans to move be­yond empty ges­tures to solve the job-killing and econ­omy-slow­ing prob­lem that is the Obama En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

Since Jan­uary, the EPA has been im­ple­ment­ing its green­house-gas reg­u­la­tions and has ad­vanced an en­tire suite of reg­u­la­tions in­tended to make it painfully ex­pen­sive for util­i­ties to con­tinue burn­ing coal for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion.

Known as the “EPA train wreck,” the reg­u­la­tions will force util­i­ties to fur­ther re­duce emis­sions of con­ven­tional pol­lu­tants such as sul­fur diox­ide, ni­trous ox­ides and mer­cury even though the cur­rent emis­sions are not caus­ing air-qual­ity or pub­lic-health prob­lems any­where in Amer­ica.

These rules are so op­pres­sive that they’ve even frayed the al­liance be­tween rad­i­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and la­bor. The In­ter­na­tional Brother­hood of Elec­tri­cal Work­ers fore­casts that 50,000 of its mem­bers and an­other 200,000 work­ers down the sup­ply line will lose their jobs within three years.

That’s quite a toll for reg­u­la­tions that will bring no health or en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits.

While some Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have waved their arms in hopes of stop­ping the on­com­ing Obama EPA steam­roller, they have failed, even though the GOP-con­trolled House has am­ple power.

Sure, the House passed leg­is­la­tion to stop the EPA’s green­house-gas reg­u­la­tions, but be­cause the GOP doesn’t con­trol the Se­nate and the White House, this has been lit­tle more than a fu­til­ity in the end.

It’s not too late, though. Repub­li­cans have two up­com­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to fix the EPA’s wagon.

First, in the next week or so, the House will com­plete the EPA ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill for 2012. Pres­i­dent Obama has re­quested $8.79 bil­lion for the agency, slightly more than the $8.7 bil­lion it re­ceived for 2011.

Next, there are the debt-ceil- ing ne­go­ti­a­tions re­quir­ing some sort of deal be­tween Congress and the White House by Aug. 2.

Repub­li­cans should use both op­por­tu­ni­ties to stop the EPA. There should be no money for an agency that has no con­sid­er­a­tion for jobs in its cost-ben­e­fit analy­ses — a shock­ing ad­mis­sion made by an EPA of­fi­cial dur­ing a con­gres­sional hear­ing in April.

At the very least, Repub­li­cans ought to be able to ne­go­ti­ate a time­out for the loom­ing train-wreck of reg­u­la­tion. Re­mem­ber that the House ul­ti­mately must ap­prove any money spent by the EPA. If there is no EPA bud­get, there are no new EPA reg­u­la­tions.

Repub­li­cans can ex­pect the Obama EPA and its al­lies to re­spond and re­tal­i­ate by say­ing that no or a smaller EPA means per­mits needed by in­dus­try won’t be able to be ap­proved or will be de­layed.

The ap­pro­pri­ate GOP re­sponse is to agree to ad­e­quately fund what­ever per­mit-grant­ing and job-cre­at­ing func­tions oc­cur at the EPA and to de­fund or stay its job-killing pro­grams.

A key to any strat­egy for ad­dress­ing the EPA prob­lem is for con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans to lose their fear of the agency and its en­viro-ac­tivist al­lies.

First, Repub­li­cans must ab­sorb to their core the no­tion that it is no longer 1970. In 2011 Amer­ica, the air, wa­ter and the rest of the en­vi­ron­ment are clean and safe — largely thanks to our wealth, not the rogu­ish EPA. Rich na­tions can af­ford the lux­ury of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, while poor na­tions can­not.

Next, Repub­li­cans must rec­og­nize that the EPA is largely driven by left-wing ide­o­logues, not peo­ple who are more con­cerned about the en­vi­ron­ment or ex­ist on a higher moral plane than the rest of us.

These ide­o­logues seek to use the agency to in­crease gov­ern­ment con­trol over the use of en­ergy and to sti­fle eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Ev­ery­one knows, for ex­am­ple, that EPA reg­u­la­tion of green­house gases will have no dis­cernible im­pact on the cli- mate. The EPA has even ad­mit­ted this to Congress. Yet the reg­u­la­tory pro­gram con­tin­ues unim­peded.

Fi­nally, on a po­lit­i­cal level, no Repub­li­can will be cashiered from Congress in 2012 be­cause of the fate of the EPA. In­stead, re-elec­tion more likely will hinge on ac­tions taken to help the econ­omy — the No. 1 is­sue in Amer­ica to­day. To the ex­tent that Congress clamps down on a job-killing reg­u­la­tory mon­ster, such ac­tion will be to in­cum­bents’ credit.

Don’t be­lieve me, though. Ask any unem­ployed per­son whether he or she would rather have a job that pays well or a few fewer parts per mil­lion of ozone in al­ready clean air. The en­vi­ros may say that’s a false choice, but it’s not clear that a fu­ture unem­ployed elec­tri­cal worker would agree.

Steve Mil­loy pub­lishes JunkS­ and is the au­thor of “Green Hell: How En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists Plan to Con­trol Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Reg­n­ery, 2009).

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