You’ve got to hand it to President Obama for his perseverance. Despite getting waxed at the polls last month, his administration keeps on rolling with an environmental regulatory agenda that is neither politically popular nor wise public policy. But the White House’s regulatory runaway train is running down job creators, stifling economic growth.
The EPA’s proposal to curb carbon emissions is just the latest in a hit parade of poorly considered regulations that are poised to have an outsized and negative effect on Arizona and other Western state businesses.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and over 25 other chambers of commerce from across the state just filed comments in response to the EPA Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions nationally by 30 percent, but that would require Arizona to reduce its carbon emissions by 52 percent, one of the harshest mandates of all the states.
This is Washington bureaucrats gone wild. The EPA is making a play to regulate power plants by employing a wildly broad interpretation of the Clean Air Act under a section of the law that could only generously be called ambiguous. For its exotic legal reading of the Clean Air Act, the agency is facing a lawsuit from a coalition of 12 states. Don’t be surprised if more join soon.
The EPA-produced fact sheet on the Clean Power Plan is a cheery laundry list of all the supposedly wonderful things that will result from this sweeping regulation. What the agency fails to mention is the proposed rule’s staggering cost and its puny impact on carbon emissions.
According to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, the U.S. economy could take a hit to its bottom line of $50 billion every year until 2030. The Mountain West stands to lose over 26,000 jobs between 2014 and 2030.
But forget any bang for these bucks. If the entire premise of the EPA’s proposal is to substantively reduce carbon emissions, then the agency is embarrassing itself. By shifting carbon emissions from economic leaders like the U.S. and transferring them to China, we lose both economically and environmentally. This is even more of a concern in light of the “deal” the president struck with China on greenhouse gas; so little is asked of China in the near term that the agreement is decidedly one-sided.
In September, Gov. Jan Brewer joined governors from 14 other states citing their deep concerns over the EPA’s dramatic overreach. The governor and her colleagues correctly point out that while the EPA might want states to ditch coal for natural gas, this regulation will do nothing to help pay for the billions in required natural gas infrastructure. Forgive the governors’ skepticism that the feds would aid in the permitting necessary to construct interstate pipelines.
Congress’ options for putting the clamps on the regulatory machine are limited, but this massive overreach deserves further scrutiny from Capitol Hill. Congress could attempt to employ the Congressional Review Act to stop a rule from going into effect, or pass the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, but both options would require presidential approval, which isn’t going to happen. It also controls the power of the purse and can use the appropriations process to push back against the executive branch. Ultimately, though, it will be up to a new president to wipe the slate clean and put a stop to these job-killers.
The Clean Power Plan is not a one-off in the administration’s approach to environmental regulation; it’s part of the same pattern we’ve come to expect. Add it to the EPA’s proposal to redefine “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act, which will bring vast swaths of Arizona private property under federal regulation; last week’s announcement of a new EPA proposal on ozone, which has been dubbed “the most expensive regulation ever” by the National Association of Manufacturers; the battles over dust storms’ effect on greater Phoenix’s air quality and whether a northern Arizona power plant affects visibility at the Grand Canyon.
When government makes it more expensive to deliver power, more cumbersome to manage water supplies, and picks fights over the weather, job creators can’t grow their businesses, invest and hire. Voters in November spoke loudly that jobs and the economy were their top priorities. Judging by its regulatory agenda, the administration hasn’t gotten the message.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/.