Energy & Environment

Environmental Extremists Making Regulatory Policies?

Although they were released on April Fools Day, new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations covering vehicle efficiency and water quality standards near mines are no joke.  Instead, they are the inevitable outcome when government puts environmental radicals in charge of writing regulations. 
These unelected bureaucrats, headed by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, have no regard for or understanding of property rights, free markets, or our economy.  It’s all about worshiping at the altar of “climate change” and offering penance for America’s high standard of living by attacking industry in the name of “justice”.  
Ms. Jackson can be viewed in a clip from an EPA video saying that “we’re building our environmental justice team, increasing budget support for their work and seeking new strategies.”  Everything the EPA does must be understood within this context: “Environmental justice” is a leftist scheme to justify redistribution of wealth and the resulting regulations are not based on scientific evidence or cost/benefit analysis.
The new EPA rule with the greatest nationwide impact is increased vehicle fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards. The EPA for the first time added greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for American cars and trucks.  Specifically, the rule requires passenger cars and light-duty trucks to emit no more than 250 grams of carbon per mile driven by 2016. They estimate this translates into an average fleet fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon, an enormous increase from the current 27.5 mpg standard.
The primary way that auto makers increase fuel efficiency, especially over the short term, is by making cars lighter.  As Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said about a prior CAFE standards increase, “Why does CAFE kill? It does so because it constrains the production of larger cars. And in most modes of collision, larger, heavier cars are more protective of their occupants than are small cars.”
This National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) study from 2003, shows that “fatality risk in car-to-car crashes increased as car weight decreased, consistent with intuition and most of the literature. “  An earlier study about CAFE standards notes that “the negative relationship  between weight and occupant fatality risk is one  of the most secure findings in the safety literature.” 
If you’ve ever held a thin sheet of steel and an equally thin piece of aluminum, you know which is lighter – and which you’d rather have around you for protection.  While it’s no surprise that the aluminum industry is “cheering” the new standards, NHTSA’s assessment of the current proposal suggests a “worst case” increase of 493 traffic fatalities per year by 2016.  But what’s a few hundred lives each year if they’re martyrs in the progressive jihad for “environmental justice”?
 
The EPA acknowledges that their rules will increase the cost of cars.  They say the money will be recovered over several years through fuel savings, but that’s cold comfort to those who will priced out of buying a new car.
The new EPA rule regulating auto GHG emissions are based on their fatally flawed “endangerment finding” in which the EPA ruled that CO2 is a pollutant without doing any of their own research.  They simply relied on the findings of climate alarmists, most notably the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization putrid with the stench of Climategate, Glaciergate, and multiple other instances of incompetence and corruption.  But Lisa Jackson has made it clear that Thursday’s announcements are only the beginning of EPA’s intended regulation of all sources of greenhouse gases.
EPA also issued a new rule which is superficially about water quality but its purpose is to attack the coal industry.  The rule, which targets a level of water conductivity as a proxy for salinity, is a frontal assault on coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains.  The National Mining Association suggests that the policy was made “without the required transparency and opportunity for public comment,  is based on “’new science’ that has been found to be both flawed and limited in its findings,” and threatens “employment and economic activity throughout Appalachia.”  About 11% of U.S. coal production comes from the surface coal mines targeted by the EPA. 
Lisa Jackson says that “Appalachian communities shouldn’t have to choose between a healthy environment and jobs.”  Putting aside the unproven assumption in her statement that the environment is being made unhealthy, Jackson is really saying that she intends to remove people from the burden of having to decide between earning money to feed their families and having slightly salty streams because she knows just how many microSiemens of conductivity your job is worth.
If there is any good news, it is that there is strong bipartisan opposition to the EPA’s new rules, in part because of the damage they do to particular local industries and economies, and in part because if there’s one thing legislators like to guard, it’s their own power.  
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has introduced the “Save Our Energy Jobs Act” which says that “the Environmental Protection Agency should not have the authority to promulgate rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions without being provided explicit authority to do so by Congress.”
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) has introduced legislation to “suspend potential EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources for two years.”  Rockefeller’s stance infuriated progressives, one of whom commented in response to a Washington Post article: “On behalf of the children of the planet, I sure hope Jay Rockefeller dies a sudden, and swift, death.”
Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) are supporting a Senate resolution of disapproval to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gases. And the American Farm Bureau Federation says that “efforts under way in Congress and legal challenges undertaken by state governments (against the new EPA regulations) are offering corrective paths to undo a very real disaster headed toward farm and ranch families.”
While legislators battle the EPA over the new regulations, another environment issue is looming that would be even a greater disaster. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), along with Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), are pushing a bill to impose a nationwide carbon tax.
The EPA’s new rules are simply the Obama Administration’s latest manifestation of putting radicals in charge of rule-making. It’s not about science. It’s not about the economy. It is about progressive domination, of city and state, of body and soul.
Cartoon courtesy of Brett Noel

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