Whiny L.A. Times Editorial Evinces Environmentalist Character Flaw

by William Yeatman on May 23, 2011

in Blog, Features

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The Los Angeles Times editorial board last week penned a widely circulated thesis that “[t]he environment and public health will be thrown under a bus for the sake of his [President Barack Obama’s] reelection in 2012.” While I would love, love, love for this to be true, it isn’t; the L.A. Times editorial board’s contention that the president has abandoned greens to score political points is bunk.

In fact, this administration is waging a war on conventional energy supply and demand in this country, with very real repercussions for everyday Americans. Just ask the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, oil and gas drillers along the Gulf, or coal miners in Appalachia, all of whom have urged the Congress to roll back the president’s regulatory crackdown in an effort to protect their livelihoods.

To make its point, the L.A. Times editorial board cited two examples of the president supposedly abandoned his green base as a sop to industry. The first was the EPA’s decision last week to “indefinitely” delay the implementation of Maximum Achievable Control Technology retrofits on industrial boilers to control the emissions of hazardous air pollutants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. According to the L.A. Times editorial board:

The EPA indefinitely rescinded the proposal this week, citing Obama’s January executive order on regulations and claiming that the agency hadn’t had time to properly address industry concerns about the rule since a draft was released in September…. The economy is the top subject on Americans’ minds, and Obama no doubt figures he can blunt criticism of his regulatory record and maybe corral some independent voters by cutting smokestack industries a little slack. Never mind that the economic calculus doesn’t pencil out; according to EPA estimates, the rule on industrial boilers would cost polluters $1.4 billion a year, but the value of its health benefits would range from $22 billion to $54 billion. And never mind that the rule would prevent up to 6,500 premature deaths each year.

The L.A. Times editorial board made two errors in this passage. The first was to claim that the EPA acted to address industry concerns. To be sure, American industry is aghast at this administrations war on energy, but that wasn’t the reason that the EPA delayed the study. Rather, the EPA acted due to…opposition from within the Obama administration.

That’s right. This wasn’t the first time the EPA tried to delay the rule. It tried last January, after a still-unpublished Commerce Department study eviscerated the EPA’s economic analysis. Despite requests from Republican Members of Congress, the administration won’t release the study. So much for “transparency.”

The L.A. Times editorial board’s second error is related: It parroted the EPA’s ridiculous cost-benefit analysis, the same one that the Commerce Department blew out of the water. To get an idea of what the Commerce Department objected to, read this recent Competitive Enterprise Institute study by Garrett A. Vaughn, “Clearing the Air on the EPA’s False Regulatory Benefit-Cost Estimates and Its Anti-Carbon Agenda.”

The L.A. Times editorial board’s other example of President Obama supposedly forsaking environmentalists is the administration’s having put on the “slow track” new toxic rules for coal ash. OK…so the coal ash rule is on the “slow track”… I’ll grant that to the L.A. Times editorial board. But what about: the Hazardous Air Pollutant Utility MACT, Regional Haze, unprecedented greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, unprecedented tightening of all criteria pollutants for National Ambient Air Quality Standards, a potential re-interpretation of Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to impose a 100-foot buffer rule, the creation of a new “pollutant,” salinity, under the Clean Water Act, and once-through cycling. Every single one of these “fast-track” regulations is targeted at either coal supply or coal demand. The L.A. Times editorial board can’t see the forest for the trees.

The L.A. Times’s whiny editorial evinces a character defect of the environmental movement as a whole. Namely, these green special interests are NEVER satisfied.

Consider this L.A. Times op-ed from last week, “The Wrong Sites for Solar,” in which two environmentalists argued that Obama administration’s push for solar power on federal lands is a bad idea, because it would defile a desert.

Or, note this recent L.A. Times story, about how the Sierra Club is demanding that California Governor Jerry Brown overhaul the State’s plan for a cap-and-trade energy rationing scheme, so as to make it more onerous on what’s left of California’s industrial base.

They get solar power…but it’s not good enough, because it might prove inimical to a turtle in a desert wasteland. They get a cap-and-trade energy rationing scheme… but it’s not good enough, because it wouldn’t chase away all of California’s “dirty” industry. There’s no winning with environmentalist special interests.

Thanks to the greens’ implacable nature, the energy industry in California is a total basket case, as I explain with Jeremy Lott in this American Spectator piece.

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