Obama Using the EPA as His Weapon of Choice

On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, Dear Leader Barack Hussein Obama gave a speech (actually, he just read from a Teleprompter) at Georgetown University.  He spoke about climate change.

Obama said:

  • "So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. I'm also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states, and cities, and companies have already shown."
  • "She [Gina McCarthy]'s been held up for months, forced to jump through hoops no Cabinet nominee should ever have to -- not because she lacks qualifications, but because there are too many in the Republican Party right now who think that the Environmental Protection Agency has no business protecting our environment from carbon pollution."
  • "As a president, as a father, and as an American, I'm here to say we need to act."
  • "We don't have time for a meeting of the flat-Earth society."

To say that Obama is partial to the EPA would be an understatement.  And to say that Obama is in a rush to implement his vision of what he thinks the U.S. and the world should look like would again understate his intentions.  So what is Obama doing?  Well, an examination of "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Assault on State Sovereignty," a report by William Yeatman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) illustrates just what he's up to.  Obama is, quite simply, using what he considers congressional inaction (witness what he said about Gina McCarthy in his speech) as an excuse  for a climate policy power-grab.

When Congress created the EPA in 1970, it wanted national environmental policymaking to be a "cooperative federalism" -- that the EPA and states work together to balance economic progress with environmental protection.  And, in the preamble of the Clean Air Act, Congress said that "... air pollution prevention ... at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments."  As William Session says (emphasis mine):

Stated simply, the concept is that the federal government, through the EPA, sets standards for permissible emissions of substances affecting ambient air quality while individual states retain responsibility for implementing programs to enforce these standards.

And to further that concept, Congress, when it enacted the Clean Water Act, said that "[i]t is the policy of the Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution."

But that "cooperative federalism" concept between states and the federal government is not what is happening.  The EPA is currently conducting "command and control," usurping state authority.  As William Yeatman says, "[s]ince 2009, however, the EPA has radically altered this balance of power.  To be precise, the agency has expanded its own prerogatives, at the expense of the states' rightful authority."

Yeatman illustrates just what the EPA is doing under Obama.   During the twelve years of Bill Clinton's second term, and both of George W. Bush's terms, the EPA issued 98 regulatory disapprovals.  During the four years of Obama's first term, the EPA issued 95 regulatory disapprovals.  And in the twelve years preceding Obama, the EPA issued two regulatory takeovers (Federal Implementation Plans, or FIPs).  The EPA has issued, in the last four years, 19 FIPs.  A FIP is the EPA's most drastic action -- the complete disregard of a state's regulatory authority.  As Yeatman says, "[w]henever the EPA imposes a FIP, the agency effectively determines that a state's government cares less about the environment than do federal bureaucrats inside the Capital Beltway.  Given the gravity of this accusation, the rationale for each FIP should be especially strong.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case."

In an action known as "sue and settle," the EPA is allowing environmental groups to dictate EPA policy.  For example, an environmentalist litigation group, such as the Sierra Club, files a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to meet a deadline for implementing a regulatory action.  Instead of challenging the suit, the EPA and the environmentalist groups engage in negotiations which lead to a settlement, thus determining an implementation deadline.  In the twelve years before Obama, there were 30 such actions.  During the four years under Obama, there have been 48 actions.  This strategy permits the EPA to substitute input from the states with (biased) information from environmentalist groups.  The cost?  At least $13 billion in annual regulatory costs since 2009.

The EPA has established what is known as "National Ambient Air Quality Standards" (NAAQS) for ozone, currently 75 parts per billion (ppb).  The EPA proposed lowering, in 2010, the ozone standard to between 60 ppb and 70 ppb, thus rendering 76 percent of counties that have ozone monitors to be in "nonattainment" status.  There's not a thing the various state governors can do.  Now the EPA says it will renew its standards revision request.  What's worse is that the EPA's ozone standards are based upon its own analysis, and they are unlikely to actually improve public health.  The cost?  In California, Texas, and Pennsylvania alone, the proposed 60 ppb ozone standard would lead to a total of $1 trillion in annual compliance costs and 7.3 million jobs lost.

Obama, in January 2008, said, "So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can -- it's just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."  Obama is currently using the EPA to make that statement come true.  The EPA proposed, in April 2012, a regulation known as the Carbon Pollution Standard, which effectively precludes the building of new coal-fired power plants because it requires the capture of greenhouse gas emissions by using a commercially unviable technology.  The EPA never even attempted to identify regulation beneficiaries.  And all of this while Obama wants more electric cars!

The EPA, in February 2012, issued the Utility MACT (Mercury Air Toxins National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants), expected to cost almost $10 billion annually.  Its purpose is to protect a supposed population of pregnant subsistence fisherwomen.  Look at these specifics: the pregnant women must consume at least 225 pounds of self-caught fish from exclusively the 90th-percentile most polluted fresh, inland water bodies.  And guess how large the population is that the EPA actually physically identified.  Zero!  The population is "supposed" to exist because the EPA modeled its existence.

As we all know, the EPA has stuck its nose into fracking.  The EPA, in December 2010, ordered Range Resources Corp., a natural gas production company, to provide drinking water to residents of Parker County, TX, because EPA tests had concluded that fracking operations by the company "caused or contributed to the contamination of at least two residential drinking water wells."  TX state officials objected to the EPA tests, but they went ahead anyway.  Tests by the TX Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas extraction in TX, exonerated Range Resources.

The EPA, in December 2011, announced that the Pavillion, WY, aquifer was "likely" polluted by fracking.  The EPA made that announcement based on preliminary, not peer-reviewed data.  The WY governor asked the EPA to respond to "... questions raised by scientists and engineers working for the State."  The EPA would not answer the questions.

The EPA, in January 2012, loudly via a press release, announced that it would test water in Dimock, PA, despite objections by PA Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer.  Krancer asked the EPA to not second-guess his agency, but the EPA proceeded.  Three months later, the EPA quietly informed Dimock residents that their well water had not been contaminated by fracking.

What is most troubling is that Obama said that he is directing the EPA to "develop these standards in an open and transparent way."  Uh-oh!   We have seen what he does when he says "open and transparent."

So we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Dr. Warren Beatty (not the liberal actor) earned a Ph.D. in quantitative management and statistics from Florida State University.  He was a (very conservative) professor of quantitative management specializing in using statistics to assist/support decision-making.  He has been a consultant to many small businesses and is now retired.  Dr. Beatty is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years.  He blogs at rwno.limewebs.com.