Three Quick Thoughts on EPA’s FY16 Budget (and a bonus thought on DOI’s budget)

by William Yeatman on February 3, 2015

in Blog, Features

On EPA’s FY16 Budget

  1. EPA’s FY16 budget unabashedly avows that the President’s Climate Action Plan is the agency’s lodestar.* This is an unfortunate (and unwise) state of affairs, because the centerpieces of the President’s Climate Action Plan are discretionary regulations. (Indeed, the whole regulatory regime could’ve been avoided). Meanwhile, the agency remains woefully out of compliance with hundreds of non-discretionary duties as stipulated by Congress in the Clean Air Act. These regulations—the mandatory ones that EPA refuses to perform—pertain to conventional pollutants of the sort that could pose a threat to living human beings. By contrast, EPA’s climate regs would stave off sea-level rise equal to the thickness of three sheet of paper, a century from now. To recap: The EPA is ignoring its non-discretionary responsibilities regarding regulations that might achieve a human health benefit; instead of addressing this glaring and ongoing problem, the administration wants to pour resources into discretionary climate regulations that wouldn’t actually impact the climate.
  2. E&E PM’s Jeremy Jacobs reports ($) that EPA is seeking 3.5 million in order to hire 20 full-time-equivalent layers and associated staff “to provide legal counsel in support of EPA’s Clean Power Plan.” WOW! For starters, they might as well call this the ‘NRDC Full Employment Fund,’ because the green group obviously stands to win big were this provision to see the light of day. After all, what better lawyers to hire than the NRDC staffers who wrote the rule? Setting aside the special interests who stand to benefit, $50 million for 40 lawyers’ yearlong service seems steep to me, especially given that the agency doesn’t have nearly enough resources to perform its non-discretionary duties (see above).
  3. Finally, EPA’s FY16 budget requests the creation of a Clean Power State Incentive Fund, which will provide up to $4 billion to States that commit to exceed minimum requirements established in the Clean Power Plan. The budget requests this money “in conjunction with the Clean Power Plan”; I think that means it’s not part of the agency’s budget, but would instead be an independent source of appropriations administered by the agency. In any case, it might as well be called the “California and Colorado Slush Fund” because those are the only States in position to achieve at least Building Blocks 3 & 4 of the Clean Power Plan (pertaining to renewable energy and demand side management; Building Blocks 1 & 2—dealing with efficiency mandates at coal plants and operating quotas at gas plants—are effectively impossible as proposed). The “Clean Power Plan State Incentive Fund” is a carrot to induce action by the States; I discuss the agency’s two sticks (a federal implementation plan and funding sanctions) here, here, and here.

And a bonus thought on the Department of Interior FY16 Budget

  1. In an article aptly titled “Obama answers critics, seeks to aid workers hurt by regs, market downturn“ E&E Daily’s Manuel Quiñones this morning brings attention ($) to the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement request for $1 billion over five years from the abandoned mine lands fund to speed up cleanups and, at the same time, boost coal field employment. As reported, the proposal is meant to blunt the employment impacts of the administration’s environmental policies, known here as the “war on coal.” Seems to me like a bad bargain: in exchange for a well paying job in the private sector, one’s livelihood becomes a bargaining chip in a budget battle. I don’t recall this phase in the Life of Julia.

*For example, climate change is the first policy “priority” listed in EPA’s Budget in Brief. And in a blog describing the budget, EPA’s Stan Meiburg states that, “the FY16 budget prioritizes climate action and supports the President’s Climate Action Plan,” because “. President Obama calls climate change one of the greatest economic and public health challenges of our time.”

Kenneth Glick (EEI) February 3, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Although I am strong supporter of cutting greenhouse gas emissions as a way of fighting climate change, I have a lot of trouble with using the EPA to do so. After all, you that I don’t consider greenhouse gases (carbon, methane, etc.) to be pollution and therefore cannot the part of the EPA’s job which is to make our air, water and soil cleaner and less polluted.

Lani February 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Although I am strong supporter of cutting greenhouse gas emissions as a way of fighting climate change…………………. REALLY???? You actually ‘think’ (word used lightly) that ‘man’ can CONTROL THE WEATHER??? I am continually amazed at the ignorance of people that have bought into this lie. TRUE we MUST be good stewards of this planet ~ that means to clean up after yourself, recycle, don’t pollute our water or air, perform safe forestry and land management. Humans are not stupid, we can accomplish these things. Granted the giverment must be involved to a certain extent, but they cannot control the weather and neither can you. It is nothing more than a way to TAX everyone ~ who gets the tax money collected??? Now that should give you reason to THINK.

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