- - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry recently called climate change “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” The Environmental Protection Agency says it is “happening right now.”

Based on these and other dubious claims, EPA issued rules shutting down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and preventing new ones from being built. Then it said the regulations will bring “ancillary” health benefits from general air-pollution reductions, beyond the nearly 90 percent reduction in unhealthy U.S. emissions since 1970, even as coal-based electricity more than doubled.

Next, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said her new “Clean Power Plan” isn’t really about pollution control. It’s an “investment strategy,” to encourage renewables by making fossil-fuel use increasingly expensive or legally impossible, and justifying more taxpayer billions to subsidize wind, solar and biofuel energy.

Now EPA is redefining its goals yet again. “At the core of EPA’s mission,” Ms. McCarthy recently said, “is the pursuit of environmental justice — striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American,” by “reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”

The concept is vintage Obama administration: deliberately vague, infinitely malleable, heavily race-based and decided by executive fiat. Equally problematical, EPA’s own policies and programs undermine these supposed “fairness” and “justice” objectives. It’s an invitation for more EPA money, personnel, power and control.

However, the agency is adept at ignoring and hiding its harmful impacts on American citizens, especially the very people EPA claims to be helping.

Overall median household income increased barely $180 between 2012 and 2013, and was still $5,000 below the 1999 level, Census Bureau data show. Perhaps worse, since President Obama took office, median incomes for much of his voter base have plummeted: nearly $3,000 for black households, $2,500 for Hispanic families and $1,500 for households headed by single mothers. Unemployment rates for these groups are likewise much higher than for the general population.

A primary reason is the federal government’s $1.9 trillion in annual regulatory-compliance costs for U.S. businesses and families, of which EPA alone is responsible for $353 billion, the Competitive Enterprise Institute calculates.

Ms. McCarthy is nevertheless determined to advance Mr. Obama’s agenda of slashing fossil-fuel use, making electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket,” and “fundamentally transforming” the United States. That translates into fewer job opportunities and steadily higher prices for electricity, motor fuels and everything we make, grow, ship, eat, drive and do.

Minority, elderly and other low-income groups are far less “disproportionately affected” by air pollution than they are by having to spend disproportionate amounts of their declining incomes on heating, air conditioning, food and other basic necessities, whose costs continue to rise, largely because of EPA and other federal anti-energy, anti-growth policies.

Our air is already safe. EPA’s own Urban Air Toxics report chronicles a 66 percent reduction in benzene levels, 84 percent in airborne lead, 84 percent in mercury from coal-fueled power plants, and more than 90 percent in particulates (soot). So EPA pays its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and the American Lung Association millions of dollars a year to say otherwise.

“Investing” in “green” energy technologies requires taking greenback dollars from hard-working taxpayers — and delivering them to crony corporatists and campaign contributors who seek hefty profits from climate scares and renewable mandates. Wind and solar electricity is inherently unreliable and costs many times more than power generated with coal, natural gas or nuclear.

Soaring energy and regulatory costs mean people lose their jobs. Dependency replaces hopes, dreams, pride and work ethics. If they can find new positions, motivated people must often work multiple lower-paying jobs, commute longer distances and spend greater portions of their incomes on transportation.

More people suffer greater sleep deprivation, stress, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse and poorer nutrition and medical care. More have strokes and heart attacks. More die prematurely.

EPA’s climate-based 54.5-mile-per-gallon standards mean cars will be lighter and less safe in accidents. More people suffer severe injuries or get killed. Minority and other poor families are at greatest risk, because they cannot afford vehicles with advanced safety features.

As Congress of Racial Equality national Chairman Roy Innis emphasizes, access to abundant, reliable, affordable energy is the key to improving lives, living standards and civil rights.

These are all matters of social and environmental justice. EPA simply ignores them.

EPA-style justice also reflects an ugly premise that undergirds many Obama administration policies: Low-income people are victims of businesspeople who threaten their health and communities — if they don’t support liberal, Democratic agendas and candidates.

These sentiments are a divisive throwback to Occupy Wall Street. They ignore the fact that Mr. Kerry, climate alarmist political bankroller Tom Steyer, Mr. Obama and their crony-capitalist fundraiser dinner companions are all part of the 0.1 percent.

Despite often oppressive taxes and regulations, businesspeople create jobs, give workers opportunities to earn livings and support their families, and develop the employment and life skills to successfully climb the socioeconomic ladder.

Those who violate environmental, health, safety, tax and other laws are penalized — whereas all too often the regulatory overseers escape any accountability for accidental, incompetent and even deliberate actions that hurt their fellow citizens.

Ms. McCarthy should base environmental policy on sound science — and check her phony justice rhetoric at the door.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and the Congress of Racial Equality, and author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death” (Merril Press).

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