- - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Of all the ways the outgoing Obama administration has waged war on the private sector, nothing has been as deeply felt as the economically harmful actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

One could make the argument that if the Trump administration truly wants to see 3-5 percent annual growth in gross domestic product and raise median wages for the first time in decades, then the selection for EPA administrator is the most significant choice that President-elect Donald Trump faces for his Cabinet.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is the right man for the job.

With Administrator Pruitt at the helm, I am confident that relations between the EPA and the state of Texas, one of our nation’s most successful energy-producing states, will be able to return to the model set up by Congress — one of cooperative federalism, not coercive federalism.

Protecting the air, water and land is a priority for our state. We are pleased the EPA will be led by someone who wants to return to that as the EPA’s priority, rather than waging an ideologically based energy policy war on fossil fuels.

How bad was the Obama administration’s EPA?

In recent years, the United States has seen a major onslaught of overreaching federal regulations, with the imposition of 229 major regulations since 2009 at a cost of $108 billion annually. Under President Obama, the EPA accounted for nine of the 43 new major rules in 2015, increasing annual regulatory costs by $11.1 billion.

What’s more, 56 Clean Air Act Federal Implementation Plans were issued under the Obama administration, as compared to a total of five during the prior three presidential administrations spanning 20 years (with only one during the eight years of the Clinton administration).

The U.S. energy sector faces an increasing amount of uncertainty from these intrusive and disruptive federal regulatory initiatives, which threaten to destabilize the electricity market, impose a heavy burden on ratepayers and negatively affect the economy.

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is the most extreme example of the EPA’s overreach. Rather than rewarding Texas for having a carbon-dioxide emissions rate better than 26 states and below the national average, the EPA has mandated that Texas reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions far more than any other state and more than most other states combined. In addition to this inequity, it will force the premature shutdown of numerous power plants, result in billions of dollars in costs, create electric reliability issues, and ultimately raise wholesale electricity prices by at least 20 percent by 2030.

As bad as the CPP will be — unless halted by the future administration — the worst part of the rule is that it is truly “all pain, no gain,” with the total benefits from the rule, using the EPA’s own calculation methods, amounting to less than one-hundredth of a degree reduction in global temperature increase and less than one-hundredth of an inch abatement in sea level rise (the thickness of one or two human hairs).

The state of Texas worked closely with Mr. Pruitt to fight the CPP, and his leadership was not just helpful, it was truly meaningful.

Texas challenged the CPP, along with 26 other states (including Oklahoma) and secured from the U.S. Supreme Court something that has never happened in the history of our country — the court stayed the rule while the lower court reviewed its validity. This action is widely seen as a strong indication that our nation’s highest court does not view the EPA’s CPP as an appropriate exercise of its authority.

I wish I could say CPP was the only damaging thing President Obama’s EPA did.

Here are two more egregious examples:

The EPA attempted to impose billions of dollars in compliance costs on Texas via the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. The rule would have required Texas to deliver half of the nation’s sulfur-dioxide reductions based on a projected ground-level impact of particulate matter in Illinois that was so small that a person breathing that air every day for an entire lifetime would be exposed to a grand total of particulate less than one-twelfth of a Splenda packet. Despite this minuscule impact, Texas fought the EPA in court for more than four years until courts ultimately struck down the rule’s requirements for Texas.

The EPA’s Regional Haze Reasonable Progress Federal Implementation Plan is another effort to single out Texas. The rule will cost Texas’ electric generators over $2 billion, likely lead to the shutdown of numerous power plants, result in higher electricity bills and jeopardize electric reliability, all while resulting in “improvements” that, by the EPA’s own calculations, could not be detected by the human eye — which was the whole reason the regional haze program was put in place — to improve visibility. This “invisible impact” rule was challenged by Texas in court and was found by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to be so egregious the court stayed the rule and recognized the EPA had likely overstepped its legal authority in at least four different ways.

In Texas, we know Mr. Pruitt because we have locked arms with him and the state of Oklahoma to protect our economies from federal overreach and defend our ratepayers from unnecessarily higher electricity rates and an unreliable electricity grid.

Attorney General Pruitt has the leadership, the experience, the common sense and the courage to do the job that needs to be done at the EPA after eight disastrous years.

Mike Nasi is the general counsel for Balanced Energy for Texas.

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