August 23, 2011, Investor’s Business Daily
It won’t matter which light bulbs we use as the administration’s implementation of cross-state pollution rules shuts down coal plants across the country. Where will the jobs be when the lights go out?
It’s called the Cross-State Pollution Rule, announced last month, and its implementation over the next 18 months will likely result in the loss of a fifth of the nation’s electricity-generating capacity.
The result will be likely power shortages, skyrocketing rates and inevitable brownouts and rolling blackouts.
Based on Bush-era EPA proposals that the federal courts threw out in 2008, this latest example of legislation is designed to usurp state powers to regulate their in-state emissions by making it a federal issue on the grounds pollution crosses state lines.
The rule requires coal companies in 27 states to slash emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide by 73% and 54%, respectively, from 2005 levels by 2014. “Just because wind and weather will carry air pollution away from its source at a local power plant doesn’t mean that pollution is no longer that plant’s responsibility,” says Environmental Protection Agency Chief Lisa Jackson.
The targets are states such as Texas that not only resist federal encroachment on their powers but dare to try to balance environmental quality. The EPA claims huge health gains as its justification, but those claims are in doubt. Poverty and joblessness, which this and other EPA rules will create, carry their own health risks.
Two days before Christmas, EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz said in a letter that the agency was taking permitting authority over refineries, power plants and cement facilities in Texas from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) starting last Jan. 2.
“The EPA’s misguided plan paints a huge target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers by implementing unnecessary, burdensome mandates on our state’s energy sector, threatening hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs and imposing increased living costs on Texas families,” Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said in an e-mailed statement.
TCEQ is the world’s second-largest environmental regulatory agency after the EPA. Cesinger notes that the state’s flexible air quality permitting system, one that considers economic impact, has led, for example, to a 22% reduction in ozone and a 53% decrease in nitrous oxide since 2000.
Texas environmental policies are designed to work with industry so job growth is not eviscerated. Texas utilities have been ordered by the EPA to cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 47% from 2010 levels and nitrogen oxide by 8% and to do it by next January.
The head of the Texas Public Utility Commission says the rules could lead to rolling blackouts. The American Legislative Exchange Council says that nationally the new regulations will cost up to $129 billion and force utilities to retire one-fifth of coal-generating capacity.
Up to 110 gigawatts of capacity came on-line between 1940 and 1969 and were grandfathered under the Clean Air Act. Now the EPA is saying bring them up to their code or shut them down.
An analysis released earlier last month by the National Economic Research Associates used government data to examine the combined impacts of this latest rule and other EPA rules and found the EPA’s actions would cause a net job loss of more than 1.4 million job-years by 2020.
That may be a conservative estimate. You can’t really calculate the economic impact of possible rolling blackouts in an economy where GDP growth has virtually flatlined, the official unemployment rate hovers above 9% and investment has stalled.
While the administration focuses on job creation on the beaches and in the ice cream shops of Martha’s Vineyard, its rogue EPA considers job-creation hazardous to our health and pledges its dedication to having us breathe marginally cleaner air in the unemployment line.