The next month is a good time for Congressional Republicans to move beyond empty gestures to solve the job-killing and economy-slowing problem that is the Obama Environmental Protection Agency.
Since January, the EPA has been implementing its greenhouse-gas regulations and has advanced an entire suite of regulations intended to make it painfully expensive for utilities to continue burning coal for electricity generation.
Known as the “EPA train wreck,” the regulations will force utilities to further reduce emissions of conventional pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides and mercury even though the current emissions are not causing air-quality or public-health problems anywhere in America.
These rules are so oppressive that they’ve even frayed the alliance between radical environmentalists and labor. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers forecasts that 50,000 of its members and another 200,000 workers down the supply line will lose their jobs within three years.
That’s quite a toll for regulations that will bring no health or environmental benefits.
While some Congressional Republicans have waved their arms in hopes of stopping the oncoming Obama EPA steamroller, they have failed, even though the GOP-controlled House has ample power.
Sure, the House passed legislation to stop the EPA’s greenhouse-gas regulations, but because the GOP doesn’t control the Senate and the White House, this has been little more than a futility in the end.
It’s not too late, though. Republicans have two upcoming opportunities to fix the EPA’s wagon.
First, in the next week or so, the House will complete the EPA appropriations bill for 2012. President Obama has requested $8.79 billion for the agency, slightly more than the $8.7 billion it received for 2011.
Next, there are the debt-ceiling negotiations requiring some sort of deal between Congress and the White House by Aug. 2.
Republicans should use both opportunities to stop the EPA. There should be no money for an agency that has no consideration for jobs in its cost-benefit analyses - a shocking admission made by an EPA official during a congressional hearing in April.
At the very least, Republicans ought to be able to negotiate a timeout for the looming train-wreck of regulation. Remember that the House ultimately must approve any money spent by the EPA. If there is no EPA budget, there are no new EPA regulations.
Republicans can expect the Obama EPA and its allies to respond and retaliate by saying that no or a smaller EPA means permits needed by industry won’t be able to be approved or will be delayed.
The appropriate GOP response is to agree to adequately fund whatever permit-granting and job-creating functions occur at the EPA and to defund or stay its job-killing programs.
A key to any strategy for addressing the EPA problem is for congressional Republicans to lose their fear of the agency and its enviro-activist allies.
First, Republicans must absorb to their core the notion that it is no longer 1970. In 2011 America, the air, water and the rest of the environment are clean and safe - largely thanks to our wealth, not the roguish EPA. Rich nations can afford the luxury of environmental protection, while poor nations cannot.
Next, Republicans must recognize that the EPA is largely driven by left-wing ideologues, not people who are more concerned about the environment or exist on a higher moral plane than the rest of us.
These ideologues seek to use the agency to increase government control over the use of energy and to stifle economic development. Everyone knows, for example, that EPA regulation of greenhouse gases will have no discernible impact on the climate. The EPA has even admitted this to Congress. Yet the regulatory program continues unimpeded.
Finally, on a political level, no Republican will be cashiered from Congress in 2012 because of the fate of the EPA. Instead, re-election more likely will hinge on actions taken to help the economy - the No. 1 issue in America today. To the extent that Congress clamps down on a job-killing regulatory monster, such action will be to incumbents’ credit.
Don’t believe me, though. Ask any unemployed person whether he or she would rather have a job that pays well or a few fewer parts per million of ozone in already clean air. The enviros may say that’s a false choice, but it’s not clear that a future unemployed electrical worker would agree.
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).