November 22, 2011, Wall Street Journal, Editorial
An unintentionally revealing interview from the EPA chief.
Psychoanalysis is usually the wrong way to understand politics, but the Obama Administration may be reviving the field with its Freudian slips. The latest to land on the couch is Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson, who gave an unintentionally candid interview this weekend with Thalia Assuras of Energy Now News.
Ms. Jackson was asked about the EPA’s regulatory boom and the resulting mass retirements of coal-fired power plants. She responded by claiming that “First off, EPA doesn’t require shutting down of any plant,” which is technically true: The EPA merely writes rules so stringent that those plants are no longer economic to operate.
When pressed, Ms. Jackson went on to say that “No, I can’t say what a business will decide to do. Some businesses are investing in nuclear, some are looking at natural gas. There are states that are leading the way on solar or wind… What EPA’s role is to do is to level the playing field so that pollution costs are not exported to the population but rather companies have to look at the pollution potential of any fuel or any process or any plant or any utility when they’re making their investment decisions.” (Our emphasis.)
In fact, when Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, its goal was clean air, not the industrial planning that Ms. Jackson’s comments about “levelling the playing field” reveal. Under the law, the EPA is required to set source-specific standards depending on where the emissions come from—natural gas, coal or something else. It certainly doesn’t contain a roving mandate for Ms. Jackson to guide investment decisions.
What Ms. Jackson really means is that she is trying to make coal—the workhorse of U.S. electric power—artificially more expensive. This is to serve her anticarbon goals, if not the consumers who will bear the costs and may suffer if the U.S. electric grid is compromised. But at least the EPA chief is finally admitting what she’s up to.