- - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One issue that has been noticeably absent from the Republican platform this election season is any discussion of the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It didn’t even come up at the Republican National Convention a couple of weeks ago. If the omission was an oversight, it was a big one. If it was intentional, it’s cause for concern.

The EPA has spent the better part of its 42-year existence trying to put America out of business, but especially under the Obama administration. You don’t believe me? Ask anyone in the coal industry, which has been victimized by the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, proposed greenhouse-gas-emission rules and usurpation of the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit-writing authority, to name just a few EPA abuses of power.

Even though the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was vaporized recently by a federal appellate court, the rule was in existence long enough to cause electric utilities to start planning for a coal-less future.

Until recently, the Obama EPA was aggressively pursuing the burgeoning shale gas industry, desperately trying to link hydraulic fracturing with drinking-water contamination. The Obama EPA went so far as to cook up an error-filled report linking “fracking” to groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., from which it has since had to retreat.

But the lull in the persecution of the shale gas industry is only temporary. The Obama administration has realized that the illusion of endless cheap natural gas is an even more effective weapon against the hated coal industry than draconian regulation. So once the coal industry has been finished off, the EPA will be able to return to targeting shale gas.

President Obama’s desire to be re-elected put on hold his EPA’s 2011 effort to tighten air-quality standards for ground-level ozone. With a price tag of more than $1 trillion in compliance costs and millions of jobs lost, the EPA plans to issue the rules in 2013, hopefully under a re-elected President Obama, but also under a President Romney if necessary.

The agency also is on track to finalize after the election new air-quality standards for particulate matter (dust and soot), which will make it even more difficult for industrial facilities to get permits to operate.

More than just imposing compliance costs, which are bad enough, the EPA’s arbitrary and heavy-handed regulation robs the American economy of new opportunities for growth. Facilities that could be built don’t get built because investors are scared away by onerous rules.

While the agency asserts that all its rules are necessary to protect the public health, the reality is that the environment is not and never has been a public health problem in the United States. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is fond of saying that the agency is merely “doing what the science is telling us.” That statement, of course, is a howler for anyone who has ever taken a close look at EPA “science” and how it is cooked up, literally. That is, the EPA pays for research, pays the researchers to “review” their own research, ignores public criticism and then trots out the results as “independent.”

The EPA is a government horror story that is responsible for trillions of dollars in lost economic growth, trampled rights and liberties and perverted science. It needs to be reformed now.

EPA reform is a fundamental reason to vote for Mitt Romney and a Republican-controlled Congress in November. But if Mr. Romney and the Republicans never talk about the problem and the need for EPA reform, rest assured that it will be difficult to do if and when the time comes in 2013.

Even with a GOP-controlled government, the left’s demagogic skills will make reform efforts extremely difficult. After the 1994 GOP landslide, Clinton EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner single-handedly eviscerated efforts to reform the agency by exploiting the GOP’s failure to have made its case to the public beforehand.

The GOP’s failure to lambaste EPA during the Republican convention in August was no accident. Republican politicians are afraid of the EPA as an issue. If you think Social Security and Medicare reform are the third rail of American politics, at least Republicans will talk about them in public. But they won’t go near the EPA to any meaningful extent.

If Mr. Romney wins and Republicans control Congress, there will be a limited window of opportunity for significantly reforming the EPA in 2013. But Mr. Romney and the rest of the GOP need to start talking about it now.

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).