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December 2, 2014

EPA’s Holiday Sale on New Regulations

Just before Thanksgiving, the agency rolled out the first of many new rules.

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Obama administration announced it will seek tighter restrictions to curb industrial emissions to lower ozone pollution. It’s the first of many new rules the EPA will be rolling out in the next few months – all sure to do more harm to the economy than good for the environment.

Rules to reduce methane emissions are expected soon. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas said to trap heat 25 times more than carbon dioxide, is a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking – the technique often used to extract oil or natural gas from the earth. Environmentalists claim methane leaks have the potential to cancel out the benefits of natural gas production. Of course, years before the natural gas boom, these same environmentalists heralded natural gas as the solution to America’s energy problems. It’s cleaner than oil, it’s plentiful and it’s easy to reach. Now that we are actually harvesting more energy, however, the environmental lobby wants to shut it down. It’s a common pattern – constantly moving the goal post to make anything good for the economy seem bad for the environment.

Coal ash is another target for the EPA. The agency may not label this byproduct of burned coal in electricity generation a hazardous waste, but the new rules for how it is stored and handled will hit the embattled coal industry with significant new costs. It’s yet another salvo in Obama’s ongoing war to shut down coal production in America.

The EPA temporarily tabled its new fuel-blending requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard. But the welcome news of this delay is more than offset by coming government restrictions on fracking on federal lands and offshore drilling in the Arctic.

Industry and private citizens are paying a hefty price for these regulations. The agency maintains we’ll save $67 billion on energy. But they arrive at this phony conclusion by using a complex model illustrating the supposed damage done to the environment by unchecked carbon emissions and tallying the costs to be incurred by cleaning it up. Yet if rabid environmentalists have taught us anything over the last several years, it’s not to trust their predictions. Whether they’re wrong because of faulty analysis or outright lying, the end result is the same.

Energy Ventures Analysis, a private industry consultancy, estimates the EPA carbon rules will add $284 billion in energy costs over the next five years. Between 2012 and 2020, the average annual household gas bill will increase by $680, while electricity bills could increase by $340. The industrial sector could see a 92% hike in electricity and natural gas bills by 2020, costs that will assuredly be passed on to consumers in higher prices for goods and services.

The Supreme Court recently agreed to take on the question of whether the EPA should have considered costs in determining the regulation of hazardous air pollutants. The question is central to three separate suits against the EPA that the Court consolidated into one. There’s no reason to believe, however, that this case will curb the EPA’s overreach into the economic sector. The Supreme Court has a sad history of validating the agency’s broad use of power. In 2007, the Court ruled that the EPA had the power to regulate gases it associates with “climate change.” This year, it affirmed the EPA’s plan to regulate greenhouse gases at large industrial plants.

There really is only one way to check the imperial overstretch of the so-called Environmental Protection Agency: Elect a president in 2016 who knows the real difference between creating environmental regulations that make sense and issuing edicts for the sake of attaining power.

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