EPA Greenhouse Gas Restrictions Raise Concerns About Economic Costs

Published November 29, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed guidance for regulating greenhouse gas emissions is set to go into effect on January 2, 2011. The guidance requires large sources of greenhouse gas emissions to pay for the “best available” technology to control the emissions before construction and when performing significant maintenance work or upgrades.

On November 15, Obama’s EPA issued a 100-page, highly technical “guidance” document proposing as of January 2, 2011, large sources of greenhouse gas emissions—such as power plants, steel operations, and petroleum refineries—be required to obtain preconstruction and operating permits limiting their greenhouse gas emissions and to install the “best available” technology for limiting the emissions.

Limited Comment Period
EPA regulators allowed only a very short, 14-day comment period—the deadline was December 1, 2010—before the new guidance was scheduled to be finalized and states required to carry out the policy. EPA announced it would review only comments on technical aspects of the new rule.

“We can argue over the need for improving our air quality beyond the amazing improvements we have witnessed in the past 30 years, and we can argue over whether there is a need to reduce carbon emissions when carbon dioxide is the lifeblood of our planet, supporting the plant life that makes life for mankind viable,” said Heartland Institute science director Jay Lehr. “But no one can argue EPA’s heavy hand in declaring to the public that they have exactly two weeks to respond to their proposal by a December 1 deadline with one of the weeks being taken up largely by our nation’s Thanksgiving celebration.”

New Permits, Higher Costs
Previously, no construction and operating permits regarding greenhouse gases were needed, and no greenhouse gas limits existed. It is widely agreed such new rules will drive up the costs of electricity, iron and steel, gasoline, and anything else produced by large operations, with these costs passed along to consumers already staggered by a jobless “recovery” from the recession.

“Even a cursory glance at the EPA guidance document makes one thing crystal clear—the permitting process to reduce or control carbon dioxide emissions is costly, complex, and time-consuming,” observed Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) senior fellow Marlo Lewis in a CEI press release.

The delays already inherent in permitting process are expected to increase greatly, as deficit-plagued states will face vast new greenhouse gas-related staffing requirements they can ill afford.

“It is clear now that Congress is not going to pass cap-and-trade legislation to restrict carbon dioxide emissions,” Lehr observed. “The public has expressed overwhelming opposition to it just about everywhere except California. It is just as clear, however, that under the direction of President Obama and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson we are going to be subject to regulation, essentially without representation.

“This is disgraceful and would certainly have our nation’s founders rolling over in their graves,” Lehr concluded.

Marc Oestreich ([email protected]) is a legislative specialist with the Heartland Institute. Maureen Martin ([email protected]) is senior fellow for legal affairs at the Heartland Institute.