NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EPA Power Grab

July 15, 2013

In his recent speech at Georgetown University, President Obama declared that since Congress won't enact climate policies, he's just going to impose them. The president is using congressional inaction as a pretext for a climate policy power grab and that is very troubling, say Todd Wynn, the American Legislative Exchange Council's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force director, and William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

It is only the latest development in a worrying accumulation of authority at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency has been systematically centralizing environmental protection by seizing rightful control from the states and replacing local community input with extreme environmental activists.

Under both the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, the EPA has the authority to "disapprove" a state's strategy to meet national environmental standards. A regulatory disapproval is no small matter as state officials spend countless hours and taxpayer resources crafting plans to comply with a newly finalized EPA regulation. When the EPA issues a regulatory disapproval, the agency effectively throws all of this work out the window.

Since President Obama took office, the number of regulatory disapprovals has skyrocketed.

  • The EPA issued 44 disapprovals during President Clinton's second term, 42 during President George W. Bush's first term and 12 during Bush's second term.
  • But during President Obama's first term, the EPA issued an unprecedented 95 disapprovals, which is more than a 190 percent increase from the average number of disapprovals during the previous three four-year presidential terms.

Even more alarming is the precipitous increase in the number of EPA takeovers of state regulatory programs.

  • From 1997 through 2009, the EPA imposed only two Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs).
  • Since Obama's first inauguration in 2009, the EPA has imposed 19 FIPs.
  • This represents a 2,750 percent increase in the number of FIPs from the average number of FIPs during the previous three four-year presidential terms.

The risks of the federal government's recent power grab are severe. Individual liberties, political speech and privacy are all at stake. With the EPA, not only are there are billions, even trillions, of dollars of direct costs associated with its recent regulatory assault on American life, there is also a huge hidden cost: the loss of states' rightful authority in environmental regulation and policy making.

Source: Todd Wynn & William Yeatman, "EPA Growth Knows No Limits," American Spectator, July 5, 2013. 


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