Texans Protest Greenhouse Gas Restrictions at EPA Hearing

Published April 11, 2011

Texas Members of Congress and state officials vigorously protested Environmental Protection Agency global warming regulations during a recent EPA field hearing in Houston. Gina McCarthy, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, countered by characterizing Texas as a rogue state defying federal orders regarding global warming.

The March 24 field hearing, titled “EPA’s Greenhouse Gas and Clean Air Act Regulations: A Focus on Texas’ Economy, Energy Prices and Jobs,” featured two panels discussing various aspects of EPA’s efforts to restrict global warming, followed by comments from McCarthy. Panel 1 consisted of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw, and Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Panel 2 consisted of Kathleen Hartnett White, a distinguished fellow with the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation; James Griffin, a plant manager at Dianal America’s Texas manufacturing plant; and James Marston, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Texas office.

EPA Targeting Texas
EPA has begun implementing greenhouse gas regulations affecting both mobile and stationary sources. EPA claims the regulations are necessary to address alleged negative health impacts from global warming, but critics point out the regulations would strangle the U.S. economy while having little or no impact on global temperatures and alleged negative human health impacts.

EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations have inspired spirited protests in many states, with particularly strident opposition in Texas. EPA determined in June 2010 the TCEQ flexible air permits program did not meet EPA’s requirements for protection of health and the environment. In December 2010 the EPA Region 6 Administrator announced greenhouse gas permitting in Texas will be handled directly by EPA, rather than state officials, beginning on January 2, 2011.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly exhibited a disturbing pattern of behavior of abuse of their federal authority in the state of Texas, and it needs to stop,” Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) said at the hearing.

“We are not engaged today in a witch hunt against the Environmental Protection Agency, but we do believe that the Environmental Protection Agency, like every other federal agency, should follow the law and not make it,” explained Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).

Energy Prices, Jobs at Risk
“Ultimately, in this process it is the consumer, American families, that will be picking up the tab for higher costs” of EPA’s greenhouse gas restrictions, said Staples.

McCarthy argued greenhouse gas restrictions encourage rather than stifle economic activity.

“It is terrifically misleading to say that enforcement of the Clean Air Act has cost jobs,” said McCarthy. “That claim is simply untrue. Enforcement of the Clean Air Act has saved lives and allowed the economy to grow.”

McCarthy claimed greenhouse gas restrictions will “result in $2 trillion in economic benefits in 2020.”

New Burdens on Texans
“Texas, now the nation’s leading manufacturing state, will be disproportionately impacted by EPA’s regulatory onslaught,”¬†White said after the hearing. “Never in its 40-year history has EPA simultaneously promulgated so many major regulations with multibillion-dollar costs but with such weak science.”

“EPA’s regulations will add an increasing burden on Texas farmers and ranchers at a time when rising energy prices, coupled with increased costs for other inputs, are already pressuring farmers and ranchers, who operate on razor-thin profit margins,” observed Veronica Obregon, chief communications officer for the Texas Department of Agriculture. “For agriculture, there is no choice but to absorb these increased costs or to stop producing the food we eat and the clothes we wear, or, ultimately, for consumers to pick up the tab.

“We know there are consequences for regulatory action. That’s why following sound science is a fundamental principle by which regulators all across the United States have always lived and practiced, and EPA is abandoning these principles,” Obregon added.

Alan Moran, director of the deregulation unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, agrees, saying, “For the U.S., a reduction of domestic emissions by 80 percent means at least tripling electricity bills, abandonment of major energy-intensive investments, and lower living standards.”

D. Brady Nelson ([email protected]) is a Milwaukee-based economist.