NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The EPA Permitorium

November 30, 2010

A special oversight priority for the new Congress ought to be the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has turned a regulatory firehose on U.S. business and the power industry in particular.  Since Mr. Obama took office, the agency has proposed or finalized 29 major regulations and 172 major policy rules, says the Wall Street Journal.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is also stretching legal limits to satisfy the White House's climate change goals. 

  • Specifically, the EPA plans to require "maximum achievable control technology" on a plant-by-plant basis to nearly every coal- or oil-fired utility in the country to limit pollutants like mercury.
  • The EPA started writing that rule while the data that will supposedly inform its decision were still being collected.
  • Then there's the upcoming "boiler rule," which would force industrial, commercial and institutional boilers to meet to maximum achievable control technology requirement; the EPA's lowball estimate says it will impose $9.5 billion in new capital costs on manufacturers, paper mills, hospitals and the like.

The electric industry in particular is being forced to choose between continuing to operate and facing major capital expenditures to meet the increasingly strict burden, or else shutting down and building replacements that use more expensive sources like natural gas.  Either way, the costs will be passed through to business and consumers as higher rates, which is the same as a tax increase.  The general consensus is that as much as a third of the U.S. coal-fired fleet will be retired by 2016, costing north of $100 billion.

At least 56 Senators in next year's Congress are on record supporting bills that would freeze the EPA's carbon regulation for a time or strip the agency of its self-delegated powers.  But the EPA is still pursuing the same agenda through other means, harming business expansion, job creation and economic growth, says the Journal.

Source: "The EPA Permitorium," Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2010.

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