An Uncritical View Of EPA: Why I Agree With Obama


by Larry Bell

Source: Forbes

Okay, I admit that I've been pretty tough on the EPA in the past. Unlike most other Conservatives, I've now decided that I really do want clean air, land and water, and somebody's got to do the dirty work of keeping capitalism from screwing it all up. Let there be no doubt that the agency takes every imaginable action to accomplish that.

Sure, maybe they might be faulted for going a little overboard occasionally in protecting us from ravages of excessive prosperity. Like, for example their regulatory efforts to put an end to many millions of years of climate change.

Still, we can all appreciate their good intentions. After all, think of all those critters that have frozen their butts off during previous Ice Ages lasting a hundred thousand years or so, then having to adapt to 12,000-15,000 years-long warmer interglacial periods like our current one, then repeating the process all over again. Think about all those sweaty folks during the Medieval Warm Period a thousand years ago having to endure temperatures hotter than now, followed later by a "Little Ice Age" between about 1400-1859AD causing  Washington"s troops to suffer bitter cold at Valley Forge in 1777-78, as did Napoleon"s during their frigid retreat from Russia in 1812.

Heck, even during the past century alone the planet has had to endure two distinct climate changes...warming between 1900 and 1945 followed by a slight cool-down until 1975 when temperatures  rose again at quite a constant rate until 1998.

So what if we humans really can prevent that climate change nuisance after all? Like be able to pick a time when temperatures are really great and there aren't all those frequent severe weather events that past decades have witnessed?

Good news! It appears that we actually can. According to the UN's last IPCC report, their scientists now claim they are virtually certain that we humans are primarily responsible for the past 17 years of flat global temperatures thanks to our record high atmospheric CO2 emissions.

Not only that, it seems that we have influenced the lack of increase in the strength or frequency of landfall hurricanes in the world's five main hurricane basins over the past 50-70 years, and a lack of increase in the strength or frequency in tropical Atlantic hurricane development during the past 370 years. We're also responsible for the longest U.S. period ever recorded without intense Category 3-5 hurricane landfall, and for no trend since 1950 of any increased frequency of strong (F3-F-5) U.S. tornadoes.

Obviously we're doing something right.

Then there's the matter of those rising oceans. Remember when presidential candidate Obama declared during his June 8, 2008 victory speech as Democratic Party nominee that his presidency will be "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"?

If you think his red line in Syria was a big deal, you've certainly got to give him credit for drawing an ambitious line in the sand on that one. And even without Putin's help, he's held to that promise. Just as he said, the sea level rise hasn't accelerated at all since the time he assumed control. Nope, it's still increasing at the rate of about seven inches per century, just as it has ever since that Little Ice Age.

Granted, all this climate stuff is really complicated, and appearances of events can be deceiving. Imagine, for example the view from Al Gore's new $9 million Montecito, California ocean-front villa, or from John Kerry's yacht. It's probably very difficult to discern whether the sky is falling, or it's the ocean that is rising.

Whichever the case, after subtracting subsidence due to human water depletion from coastal water level changes, that lowering in addition to a seven inches-plus per century sea rise difference clearly does present a serious problem in some locations.  However, the question is how much help EPA can be expected to afford in solving it.

Here's a thought. What if the federal government got out of the business of using our taxes to subsidize cheap flood insurance in vulnerable low-lying areas which encourages irresponsible coastal development in the first place?

Yeah, I know. That's a pretty radical idea.

Regardless, undaunted by reality, the EPA is determined to protect us, come hell and/or high water. It's termed the "precautionary principle", where regulatory economic costs and impacts aren't their concern.  Don't believe me?

In 2011, the American Council for Capital Formation estimated that the new EPA regulations will result in 476,000 to 1,400,000 lost jobs by the end of 2014. Management Information Services, Inc. predicted that up to 2.5 million jobs will be sacrificed, annual household income could decrease by $1,200, and gasoline and residential electricity prices may increase 50% by 2030. The Heritage Foundation projects that the greenhouse gas regulations will cost nearly $7 trillion (2008 dollars) in economic output by 2029.

Yet EPA representatives have maintained that considerations regarding such regulatory economic and employment impacts fall outside the administration's purview. Responding in a letter to a question raised by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo), then-EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy (who now heads the agency) was very clear on this point, stating "Under the Clean Air Act, decisions regarding the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) must be based solely on evaluation of the scientific evidence as it pertains to health and environmental effects. Thus, the agency is prohibited from considering costs in setting the NAAQS."

The U.S. Government Accounting Office has stated that it can't figure out what benefits taxpayers are getting from the many billions of dollars spent each year on policies that are purportedly aimed at addressing climate change. Another 2011 GAO report noted that while annual federal funding for such activities has been increasing substantially, there is a lack of shared understanding of strategic priorities among the various responsible agency officials. This assessment agrees with the conclusions of a 2008 Congressional Research Service analysis which found no "overarching policy goal for climate change that guides the programs funded or the priorities among programs."

As noted by H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), "The EPA is in the process of codifying a whole slate of new air quality rules, the sheer number and economic impact of which have not been seen at any time in the EPA's history."

EPA's relentless regulatory war is centrally targeted against fossil energy, applying permitting authority claimed through an "Endangerment Finding" under auspices of its Clean Air Act. That finding found that current and projected atmospheric concentrations of six greenhouse gases (including CO2) "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations."

And how was that finding determined? Perhaps you correctly guessed that it was based upon global warming crisis projections put forth by the UN's IPCC.

Yet that IPCC alarmism which Administrator Lisa Jackson admitted the agency's finding was based upon was refuted at the time by EPA's own "Internal Study on Climate" report conclusions. That report, authored by my friend Alan Carlin, a senior research analyst at EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics, stated:  "...given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based upon a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data."

The EPA's latest climate battle plan is to prohibit construction of new coal-fired power plants that can't achieve 1,100 pound per megawatt hour carbon emission limits. To accomplish this will require plant operators to capture and store ("sequester") excess CO2, something that cannot be accomplished through affordable means, if at all. The Institute for Energy Research has estimated that this "regulatory assault" will eliminate 35 gigawatts of electrical generating capacity...10% of all U.S. power. As the Competitive Enterprise Institute observes, "If the carbon dioxide emissions standard for power plants proposed by the EPA today is enacted, the United States will have built its final coal-fired power plant."

On September 18, Lisa Jackson's replacement Gina McCarthy was invited to explain President Obama's "Climate Plan" war on CO2 to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I recently wrote about a notable exchange that took place between McCarthy and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) who asked her if EPA greenhouse gas regulations would be expected to impact any of 26 outcome indicators defined on their website.

At one point Pompeo asked:  "Do you think it would be reasonable to take the regulations you promulgated and link them to those 26 indicators that you have on your website? That this is how they impacted us?"

McCarthy responded:  "It is unlikely that any specific one step is going to be seen as having a visible impact on any of those impacts - a visible change in any of those impacts. What I'm suggesting is that climate change [policy] has to be a broader array of actions that the U.S. and other folks in the international community take that make significant effort towards reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating the impacts of climate change."

In other words, the plan is to lead other nations off the same economic cliff America is rapidly approaching, with EPA heading the charge.

Oh, I nearly forgot. You're probably wondering at this point where it is that I agree with President Obama regarding an uncritical view of EPA.  Well, didn't his administration determine with regard to the federal government shutdown that 93% of EPA employees weren't critical... classified as non-essential?

So when the Big Fed starts up again, as I fear it will, let's apply that precautionary principle to avoid further economic damage and just retain the 7% of the EPA that we apparently really need to keep our air, land and water clean, and sequester the rest? Isn't that a huge national debt we owe to ourselves?