- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Last Friday’s federal appellate court decision allowing the Obama administration’s greenhouse-gas regulations to take effect Jan. 2 is an unnecessary travesty for taxpayers, consumers,

businesses and states.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit isn’t the final word on whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rules are legal, but it allows them to take effect pending their litigation.

The court (Clinton appointees David Tatel, Bush appointee Janice Rogers Brown, and former-dope-smoking Reagan appointee Douglas Ginsburg presiding) held that the industries challenging the rules failed to show that “the harms they allege are certain, rather than speculative, or that the alleged harm* will directly result from [the EPA’s regulations].”

This is ridiculous.

In a few weeks, the EPA will start writing permits for power plants and other large emitters. Overlooking for the moment the costs and hassles to emitters and consumers that will undoubtedly be caused by the rules, at the very least this permit-writing process will cost the EPA and state permitting authorities (read “already strapped taxpayers”) about $80 million per year.

What environmental benefits will be gained by these expenditures? You don’t have to be a global-warming skeptic to respond: “None.”

Under the Clean Air Act, if the EPA decides to regulate a pollutant, then it must use the so-called “best available control technology” (BACT) to reduce emissions - but there is no BACT for greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2).

Burying CO2 underground - so-called “carbon capture and sequestration” - is experimental, and not considered BACT. The Obama EPA would love to declare natural gas as BACT for electric-power generation, but it is not yet willing to escalate its war against the coal industry.

Since there is no commercially available technology to reduce CO2 emissions from smokestacks, little will be avoided - even the EPA acknowledges that.

So at a very minimum, Judges Brown, Tatel and Ginsburg have imposed huge costs on taxpayers for precisely nothing in return. Apparently, there is nothing quite like a lifetime appointment away from reality.

But the wasted $80 million is really only the tip of the iceberg. There remain a number of ways that the EPA’s rules can cause further harm, according to environmental consultant Rich Trzupek.

First, the permitting process is open to public comment, most of which tends to come from environmental activists who typically use the process to delay permits and to harass applicants. There’s nothing speculative about this harassment; it will happen.

Next, the Clean Air Act allows states to charge permit holders fees based on the amount of emissions - essentially a carbon tax passed on to consumers.

The EPA wants states to press for energy efficiency in permits, forcing regulators to meddle in business operations. Consumers can expect to absorb the costs of high-efficiency equipment, too.

The EPA has advised states that they can engage in emission trade-offs, allowing increases in some other regulated pollutants in exchange for cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. But such “backsliding,” as it is referred to by environmentalist vigilantes, would merely provide another opportunity for harassing permit applicants.

States say they will be harmed by the EPA rules. Texas, in particular, says it isn’t ready, willing or able to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

In a September filing, the state told the court, “If Texas is unwilling or proves unable to accede to [the EPA‘s] unlawful [rules], the [EPA] has threatened to impose a permit moratorium that would halt as many as 167 projects in its first year, costing the state jobs, business opportunities and tax revenues. In effect, due to uncertainty resulting from the agency’s actions, a de facto construction ban is already in place.”

Demanding a showing of more harm than the foregoing is more sadistic than judicial in nature.

The EPA is out of control, and the federal judiciary is out of touch. Let’s hope the new GOP-controlled House will use its budget and investigative powers to get a grip on the EPA. Revamping the courts and the laws they interpret will have to wait until at least 2013.

Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery, 2009).

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