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Hurting the Ones You Love: By Blindly Attacking EPA, the House Continuing Resolution Would Hurt Industry and Our Economic Recovery, as Well as Our Health

David Doniger

Posted February 15, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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The House Continuing Resolution strikes out blindly to block our government from doing its job to protect our health and safety from the life-threatening carbon pollution that is driving global warming.

“Blindly” in many senses of the word.  Having put their trust in the dubious theory that what we don’t know can’t hurt us, the CR’s backers would enforce their own blinders on the entire nation by barring all manner of departments and agencies – from the Agriculture Department to NASA, to the National Park Service – from collecting essential scientific data on pollution, on the changes to the climate that are already underway, and on their consequences for our national security and for key economic sectors such as agriculture and forestry.  And in blind loyalty to the big polluters that help finance their campaigns, the CR’s backers have sought to kill or cripple nearly every initiative to launch the clean-energy and energy-saving technologies and businesses of the future – even attacking popular programs like EnergyStar that help companies and consumers save bundles of energy and bundles of cash.  

But their blindest fury is reserved for the Environmental Protection Agency.  The CR’s backers aim to block EPA from doing its job under the Clean Air Act and a landmark Supreme Court decision to protect our health and welfare by curbing dangerous carbon pollution – no matter that this will lead to more death, illness, and injury from unlimited carbon pollution.

But watch out:  When you strike out blindly, you often hurt the ones you love.  The CR would do much more than block EPA’s sensible carbon safeguards.  It would also blockade our economic recovery by blocking companies that want to build new facilities, and by hampering many of the very businesses EPA is trying to help grow. 

Here’s the CR language, and here are some of the ways it hurts businesses and hampers our recovery.

Second 1746.  None of the funds made available to the EPA by this division or any other Act may be expended for purposes of enforcing or promulgating any regulation (other than with respect to section 202 of the Clean Air Act) or order, taking action relating to, or denying approval of state implementation plans or permits because of the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change.

 So what are some of the unintended consequences?

  • Blocking the Economic Recovery by Blocking Big New Power Plants and Factories   

The CR language would put a huge obstacle in front of companies that are trying to build or expand big power plants and factories.  Under Section 165 of the Clean Air Act, these big facilities cannot legally be constructed without a permit that includes emission limits reflecting the best available and affordable pollution controls.  As a result of EPA’s motor vehicle standards – which the CR preserves – these permitting requirements apply to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  EPA and the states have worked together to assure that every small source can go forward without applying for a permit, and that every big source that needs a permit can get one in a timely way. 

The CR does not – and cannot – change the requirement for big new and expanded sources to get a permit for each regulated pollutant before constructing.  But by blocking EPA from “taking action relating to . . . permits because of the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change,” the CR would block EPA from issuing these big sources the permits they need to legally construct.  EPA also would be barred from giving states grant funds to do the permitting, and from giving states any technical assistance and information.

  • Blocking the Economic Recovery by Requiring Small Sources to Get Permits

As mentioned, EPA and the states have worked hard to make sure that the permit requirements apply only to the biggest new and expanded sources.  EPA has issued a “tailoring” rule to exempt millions of smaller sources.  The CR calls the tailoring rule’s protections for smaller sources into question, by barring EPA from “enforcing. . . any regulation . . . because of the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change.”  That would bar EPA from enforcing the regulatory exemptions for smaller sources, bringing millions of sources into jeopardy for building without a permit, and hampering economic recovery by small businesses that EPA and the states have worked to protect.

  • Blocking Regulations to Help the Biofuels and Bioenergy Industries

EPA needs to issue and enforce new regulations to implement the renewable fuels standard, upon which many farmers and agricultural businesses are depending as they work their way out of the great recession.  But the CR would bar EPA from doing its job, for it could not enforce or promulgate “any regulation . . . because of the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change.”

EPA has promised a three-year deferral from the permitting requirements for the emissions from big power plants and factories that result from burning biomass.  The deferral is intended to give EPA time to develop scientific methodologies to properly account for the uptake of atmospheric carbon when the fuels are grown.  But the deferral can be implemented only through a rulemaking, and the CR would block EPA from promulgating “any regulation” of “greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change.”

  • Blocking the Auto Industry’s Recovery by Tampering With the Clean Car Peace Treaty

The CR language purports to meet auto industry concerns by exempting motor vehicle regulations (issued under Section 202) from its otherwise complete carbon fatwa.  The apparent goal is to avoid upsetting the clean car and truck agreements reached over the last two years, which provide a way to align three agencies – the EPA, the Department of Transportation, and the California Air Resources Board – around a package of strong, but uniform and flexible standards for carbon pollution and fuel economy.  The auto industry says it supports the clean car agreements and, indeed, is building its recovery around the stability they provide.  But the CR would tear up a key feature of the peace agreement by kicking California away from the table.  It does this by blocking EPA from issuing California any waivers for its own standards under Section 209.  The auto makers say they don’t want to go back to the state of war that existed through much of the last decade.   Do the CR’s backers want to force them to?    

These are the kinds of collateral damage that the CR’s blind rage at EPA will do to the industries the House majority says it’s trying to help.

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