The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has hit the ground running with its greenhouse-gas regulations. But congressional Republicans are just getting around to introducing well-intended, but futile legislation to stop the agency.
There is another way. The GOP could rescue us from the EPA as soon as March, but it won’t.
Does the GOP have a secret strategy? Has it forgotten the election? Or is it afraid of the EPA?
Senate and House Republicans just announced plans to introduce legislation stripping the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs). That sounds encouraging, but the reality is that even if such a bill winds up on President Obama’s desk, he’ll veto it, and there aren’t enough Republicans to override a veto.
At best, these bills are political theater intended for impact in 2012. But the EPA isn’t waiting until then.
Its emissions-permitting program went into effect on Jan. 2 and by Jan. 7, the agency was already interfering with job creation and economic recovery. Its first target is the planned Nucor steel facility in St. James Parish, La.
When the permitting process being handled by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) strayed past Jan. 2, the EPA exercised its new authority and told the LDEQ that it didn’t like the proposed permit’s emissions provisions.
The permit that LDEQ proposed issuing to Nucor required the company to implement “good combustion practices” as a means of controlling GHG emissions.
This sort of energy-efficiency strategy is about all that can be reasonably expected to be done at this point to reduce emissions, short of not emitting them at all. Moreover, it is an approach the EPA said it would allow in a November guidance document.
But in a Jan. 7 letter to the LDEQ, the EPA took a hard line, calling for emissions limits or at least an explanation for why limits aren’t feasible. The agency also knocked LDEQ for not evaluating the possibility of carbon capture and storage – an odd criticism, since the technology is not commercially available.
Commendably, the LDEQ ignored the EPA and issued the permit on Jan. 27 and hopes the EPA doesn’t object further. But EPA’s enviro allies, including the Sierra Club, have squawked about the permit and will likely press the Obama administration for action.
There’s a lot at stake here – and everywhere.
After the permit was issued, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced that the Nucor facility will be “the first phase of a multiphase project that could create up to 1,250 direct jobs and $3.4 billion in capital investment, with an average salary for workers of $75,000, plus benefits.”
Though these and many more jobs around the country are threatened by the EPA and its new authority, the GOP seems to be doing everything but addressing the problem head-on.
Its best (and really only) shot at reeling in the arrogant Obama EPA is to cut the agency’s funding. Without House approval, the EPA has no budget. A great opportunity to choke off EPA funding arrives early next month when last December’s deal to fund the federal government until March 4 expires.
Congress will then need to approve a budget to keep the federal government – including the EPA – open. But the word from GOP leadership is that it just wants to pass a clean bill with no appropriations riders or other strings attached. This apparently is part of the leadership’s longer-term strategy to reduce federal spending.
While that is a noble endeavor, so is preventing the EPA from killing jobs and interfering with our fragile economy.
Having witnessed Republicans wilt from EPA reform in 1995, when then-EPA administrator Carol Browner outwitted a hapless Newt Gingrich, there should be concern that Republicans are easily intimidated by the EPA and activist bullies. It was easy for Republicans to oppose the Waxman-Markey cap-and-tax turkey, but most know little about other environmental controversies and would just as soon talk about something else.
But the GOP needs to gird itself for battle. The EPA is coming for our jobs, electricity and economy. The Obama administration is preparing to make cap-and-trade look like a walk in the park compared to EPA regulation. Its regulatory apparatus is running amok.
Cut the EPA’s budget. Cut it in March. Close down the federal government if necessary. Save us now.