Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Going Rogue, Part VI: The EPA doesn’t care
if its actions kill jobs

Commentary by James H. Shott

The Environmental Protection Agency is likely the most out-of-control, economically destructive and ideologically driven agency in the history of the United States.

Apparently unaware of the fact that the air in the US is cleaner now than at any time in the last hundred years, or that the pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels have not been proved to contribute to global climate change, the agency is ready to unleash on the country two new rules that will create great pain for Americans, Americans that pay their own bills, that is.

A study by National Economic Research Associates (NERA) shows that these two rules will increase the cost of operation of electric utilities by $184 billion by 2030. Everyone who thinks electricity costs are too high already should think about that for a few minutes; electricity consumers will bear those costs, estimated at between 11 percent and 23 percent over the next few years.

Nicolas Lori of the Heritage Foundation predicts the new rules will force "utilities to file for significant rate hikes in years to come because of the upgrades they will have to make, or the complete shutdown of older plants." We have just recently learned that American Electric Power has chosen to close or downsize 11 plants in seven states to avoid the costs that its customers would have to pay.

Worse than higher electricity rates, the NERA study predicts that these rules will kill 1.4 million jobs over the same period. Job loss caused by government action is always a bad thing, but is especially idiotic during a recovery so anemic that it doesn't look like a recovery at all.

However, as destructive as these two rules are, they’re just the start. They are among 30 major regulations and more than 170 major policy rules the EPA has on tap that will increase utility costs, according to a study by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

A more recent development makes it clear that the EPA goes merrily along with little if any regard for the wreckage that follows many of its actions, like private sector jobs and economic productivity. Testifying before a subcommittee of the House Environment and Energy Committee, Assistant EPA Administrator Mathy Stanislaus revealed that the EPA really doesn’t much care about whether the agency’s actions will kill jobs, and sometimes or perhaps frequently doesn’t even consider employment factors when devising regulatory schemes.

On the topic of recycling fly ash and other by-products of burning fossil fuels, when asked the likely results of implementing new rules on this activity, Mr. Stanislaus replied, “We have not directly taken a look at jobs in the proposal.”

“So what,” you might say. “How many jobs could be affected by more closely regulating how this waste is handled?” which, come to think of it, sounds a lot like how the EPA seems to view the situation.

As it turns out, however, the capitalist spirit is alive and well where disposing of fly ash is concerned: This waste material, rather than being dumped somewhere, is used productively to strengthen concrete and increase its useful life, to make wallboard stronger, and to make better roofing shingles, all of which involves people working.

The subcommittee is investigating whether or not the EPA is following the requirements of Executive Order 13563 signed by President Barack Obama last January requiring federal agencies to take job creation into account when they issue new rules. Specifically, the subcommittee questions whether the effect on jobs was properly considered in the April 2010 statement contained in the appendix of an analysis of proposed regulation under the Resources and Recovery Act dealing with fly ash, which said, “The [analysis] does not include either qualitative or quantitative estimation of the potential effects of the proposed rule on economic productivity, economic growth, employment, job creation or international economic competitiveness.”

Put another way, the EPA statement said, “The effect of this rule on jobs, productivity, or the economy is irrelevant, so long as fly ash is prohibited from being used productively.”

The Daily Caller news site recounted some of Mr. Stanislaus’ testimony and answers to questions posed by Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. “Gardner’s line of questioning had Stanislaus visibly dumbfounded, and he repeatedly told the congressman he would have to get back to him with the answers to his questions,” the Caller reported.

“I’d like to see a list of all of the rules that you have proposed that haven’t taken into account jobs,” Rep. Gardner said. “We need to know if the EPA considers jobs in their analysis and whether you have, and whether EPA’s position is to consider jobs when it does an economic analysis.”

The EPA loves to tell everyone else how to live, even when doing so causes pain, but it ignores orders that get in the way of its ideological agenda.

Such arrogant behavior by a government agency didn’t originate with the Obama administration, but it has reached undreamed of heights since Barack Obama took office.

One cannot help wondering if anyone will be held to account for this failure to follow the president’s direct order.

Cross-posted from Observations

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