Clean Air Act

Post image for EPA’s ‘Carbon Pollution Standard’: Bait-and-Fuel-Switch

Bait-and-switch is one of the oldest tricks of deceptive advertising. The used-car dealer “baits” you onto the lot with an ad promising low interest payments on the car of your dreams. When you get there, the dealer regretfully informs you the car has already been sold. But, no, you haven’t wasted your time, because he’s got this other great car – the “switch” — which has so many superior features and it will only cost you a little more per month.

An even less ethical variant of this tactic is employed in politics. Party A in a negotiation gives an assurance or promise to obtain Party B’s support for a law or regulation. Party A then reneges on the deal once the policy is on the books. EPA’s recently proposed “Carbon Pollution Standard” Rule is a posterchild for this tactic. [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA’s War on Transparency

Barack Obama swept into the Presidency promising a new political order, one characterized by “transparency” and “openness.” Three years later, the President’s lofty campaign promises are belied by the Environmental Protection Agency’s record of suppression.

Federal agencies cannot issue regulations willy-nilly; rather, they are bound to rules stipulating administrative procedure, in order to ensure the voice of affected parties is heard. Obama’s EPA, however, evinces a troubling tendency to circumvent these procedural rules. Regulated entities are being subjected to controversial, onerous regimes, before they even have the opportunity to read the rules, much less voice an objection. The wayward Agency is exercising an unanswerable power, straight out of a Kafka novella.

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In a recent blog, I explained how the Environmental Protection Agency is hybridizing disparate provisions of the Clean Air Act in order to engineer greater regulatory authority for itself. EPA is using these “Franken-regs” to trump the states’ rightful authority on visibility improvement policy and impose billions of dollars of emissions controls for benefits that are literally invisible.

Yesterday, for example, EPA relied on this hybrid authority to impose a federal regulatory plan on Oklahoma over the Sooner State’s objection. (A copy of the federal register notice is available here). In February, Oklahoma submitted a visibility improvement plan that would require fuel switching from coal to natural gas at six power plants by 2022, but EPA rejected this approach in March. In its stead, EPA proposed a federal plan that would require almost $2 billion in emissions controls, in addition to fuel switching. EPA’s proposed plan was finalized yesterday.

Although the Clean Air Act clearly gives states primacy over EPA in decision-making for visibility improvement, Oklahoma is one of three states subject to a federal plan. In August, EPA imposed a plan on New Mexico that costs $740 million more than the state’s plan. In September, EPA proposed a federal plan for North Dakota. All three states are challenging EPA in federal court.

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Post image for EPA’s Sinister Franken-Regs

This blog has kept a close eye on the Environmental Protection Agency’s aggressive expansion of its own authority (see here and here). The latest such power grab is taking place in the western United States, where the EPA is hybridizing disparate provisions of the Clean Air Act in order to engineer greater regulatory authority for itself. These Franken-regs are being used to trump the states’ rightful authority on visibility-improvement policy and impose billions of dollars of emissions controls for benefits that are literally invisible.

In 1977 and 1990, Congress passed amendments to the Clean Air Act providing that states work together to improve visibility at federal National Parks and Wilderness Areas. Together, these amendments are known as the Regional Haze provision. Notably, this provision accords states a uniquely high degree of control relative to the EPA. According to the EPA’s 2005 Regional Haze implementation guidelines, “[T]he [Clean Air] Act and legislative history indicate that Congress evinced a special concern with insuring that States would be the decision-makers” on visibility-improvement policy making. The courts, too, have interpreted the Clean Air Act such that states have primacy on Regional Haze decision making. In the seminal case American Corn Growers v. EPA (2001), which set boundaries between the states and the EPA on Regional Haze policy, the D.C. Circuit Court remanded the EPA’s 1999 Regional Haze implementation guidelines for encroaching on states’ authority.

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Post image for Did Obama EPA/DOT Officials Lie to Congress?

Earlier this week, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent letters to three Obama administration officials regarding the veracity of their testimonies at an October 12 subcommittee hearing on the administration’s fuel economy policies.*

Issa’s letters — to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland, EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy, and EPA Director of Transportation and Air Quality Margo Oge – are identical in content.

The gist of the letters is that each administration witness denied under oath that EPA and California’s greenhouse gas emission standards are “related to” fuel economy standards, whereas in fact, according to Issa, ”regulating greenhouse gases and regulating fuel economy is a distinction without a difference.”

This matters for three inter-related reasons: (1) EPA is currently regulating fuel economy by setting motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards even though the Clean Air Act provides no authority for fuel economy regulation; (2) EPA in June 2009 granted California a waiver to establish motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards despite the Energy Policy Conservation Act’s (EPCA’s) express prohibition (U.S.C. 49 § 32919) of state laws or regulations “related to” fuel economy; and (3) the California waiver, by threatening to create a market-balkanizing “regulatory patchwork,” enabled the Obama administration to extort the auto industry’s support for EPA’s new career as greenhouse gas/fuel economy regulator in return for California and other states’ agreement to deem compliance with EPA’s greenhouse gas/fuel economy standards as compliance with their own.

As I will demonstrate below, greenhouse gas emission standards are highly “related to” fuel economy standards, and the administration witnesses cannot possibly be ignorant of the relationship. Do their denials of plain fact rise to the level of perjury? [click to continue…]

Post image for How Absurd Is Regulating Greenhouse Gases through the Clean Air Act?

Pretty darn near the height of absurdity. That’s not just my opinion. It’s a key premise of EPA’s “Tailoring Rule,” which exempts small greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters from regulation under the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permitting program and Title V operating permits program.

As EPA explains in a brief filed last week with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, once the agency’s GHG emission standards for new motor vehicles took effect on January 2, 2011, “major stationary sources” of GHG emissions became “automatically subject” to PSD and Title V permitting requirements. A facility with a potential to emit 250 tons per year (tpy) of a regulated air pollutant is a “major source” under PSD. A facility with a potential to emit 100 tpy is a “major source” under Title V. Whereas only large industrial facilities emit 100-250 tpy of smog- and soot-forming air pollutants, literally millions of small entities — big box stores, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools, large houses of worship, Dunkin’ Donut shops – use enough natural gas or oil for heating or cooking to emit 100-250 tpy of carbon dioxide (CO2).

EPA and its state counterparts lack the administrative resources to process millions of PSD and Title V permit applications. Thus, applying the CAA as written to GHGs leads to “absurd results” — an ever-growing backlog of permit applications that would cripple both environmental enforcement and economic development. Massive increases in the budgets and staff of environmental agencies would be required to handle the mountains of paperwork. From EPA’s brief:

EPA studied and considered the breadth and depth of the projected administrative burdens in the Tailoring Rule. There, EPA explained that immediately applying the literal PSD statutory threshold of 100/250 tpy [tons per year] to greenhouse gas emissions, when coupled with the “any increase” trigger for modifications under 42 U.S.C. §§7479, 7411(a)(4), would result in annual PSD permit applications submitted to State and local permitting agencies to increase nationwide from 280 to over 81,000 per year, a 300-fold increase. 75 Fed. Reg. at 31,535-40, 31,554. Following a comprehensive analysis, EPA estimated that these additional PSD permit applications would require State permitting authorities to add 10,000 full-time employees and incur additional costs of $1.5 billion per year just to process these applications, a 130-fold increase in the costs to States of administering the PSD program. Id. at 31,539/3. Sources needing operating permits would jump from 14,700 to 6.1 million as a result of application of Title V to greenhouse gases, a 400-fold increase. When EPA [in an earlier asssessment] assumed a mere 40-fold increase in applications – one-tenth of the actual increase – and no increase in employees to process them, the processing time for Title V permits would jump from 6-10 months to ten years. Hiring the 230,000 full-time employees necessary to produce the 1.4 billion work hours required to address the actual increase in permitting functions would result in an increase in Title V administration costs of $21 billion per year. Id. at 31,535-40, 31,577 [emphasis added].

For perspective, EPA’s budget request for FY 2012 is $8.973 billion. Hiring the 230,000 bureaucrats needed to process Title V applications from GHG emitters under the statutory definition of “major source” would cost more than twice as much as EPA’s total budget.

As expected, EPA fails to draw the obvious conclusion from its own analysis, namely: Regulating GHGs via the CAA leads to absurd results because Congress never designed or intended for the Act to regulate GHGs. [click to continue…]

Post image for President Sets Sights on Re-election

The 2012 presidential election is starting to bend some of the Obama Administration’s environmental and energy policies.  I have noted previously that the White House realizes that gas prices are a huge threat to President Barack Obama’s re-election.  Consequently, the President is trying to shift the blame to oil companies and speculators while at the same time talking up what his Administration is doing to increase domestic oil production.  The reality, of course, is that the Obama Administration has moved across the board to decrease oil production in federal lands and offshore areas.

Another sign of the Administration’s focus on the President’s re-election is that the Environmental Protection Agency has suddenly started paying attention to the concerns of industry.  The timetables for new regulations of coal ash disposal and of surface coal mining in Appalachia have been extended.  EPA announced last week that it was reconsidering, but not delaying, some parts of its new Clean Air Act rule for cement plants.  This week EPA suspended indefinitely a similar rule for industrial boilers that it had promulgated in February.  EPA said that it will conduct more analyses and re-open the public comment period for the boiler rule.

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Post image for Global Warming and Asthma: Consensus?

The latest alarmist talking point is that “global warming will cause asthma in children.” To wit,  the Massachusetts League of Women Voters is running sleazy advertisements that essentially equate baby-abuse with Senator Scott Brown’s vote for excellent legislation that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The purported link between baby-abuse and global warming is increased asthma.

It’s not just lobbyists. At a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on global warming policy, Democrats on the panel—in particular, Reps. Henry Waxman and Jay Inslee—made much hay about the supposed increase in asthma suffering in a warmer world.

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Post image for EPA’s Utility MACT Overreach Threatens To Turn out the Lights

Three of the Congress’s most influential energy policymakers this week “urged” the Environmental Protection Agency to delay an ultra-costly regulation targeted at coal-fired power plants, the source of 50 percent of America’s electricity generation.  For the sake of keeping the lights on, all Americans should hope the Obama administration heeds these Congressmen’s request.

Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), and House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) yesterday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson demanding a longer comment period for a proposed regulation known as the Utility HAP MACT

[The HAP stands for “Hazardous Air Pollutant,” and the MACT stands for "Maximum Achievable Control Technology"; to learn what these terms entail, read this summary of the regulation, Primer: EPA’s Power Plant MACT for Hazardous Air Pollutants.]

The EPA issued the Utility HAP MACT in mid-March, and it gave the public 60 days to comment. The Congressmen “urge the agency [to] extend the comment period to a minimum of 120 days to allow adequate time for stakeholders to assess and comment on the proposal.”

The extended comment period is well warranted. For starters, the EPA included a number of “pollutants” in the proposed regulation that shouldn’t be there. The EPA’s authority to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants is derivative of a study on the public health effect of mercury emissions. The EPA’s proposed regulation, however, would regulate acid gases, non-mercury metals, and organic air toxins, in addition to mercury. Yet the EPA’s evidence only pertains to mercury. The EPA’s authority to regulate these non-mercury emissions, despite their not having been a part of the aforementioned study, will be challenged, and the DC Circuit Court ultimately will decide.

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Post image for In Massachusetts, Greens’ Slimy Tactics Get Zapped

Environmentalist lobbying outfits run some of the sleaziest political attack ads in the business. Their stuff would make Lee Atwater grin. My colleague Marlo Lewis wrote an excellent, extensive analysis of one such sleazy ad, from the folks at Move On. Another colleague, Chris Horner, caught Greenpeace apparatchiks rummaging through his garbage, no doubt looking for attack fodder.

Interestingly, industry refuses to defend itself from these black arts PR tactics. “Big Oil,” for example, runs silly ads denigrating its core business, like BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign and Chevron’s “I will use less energy” commercials. Then there’s “Big Gas,” which promotes itself by talking about “Dirty Coal.” (Sigh.)

But that’s a separate issue. This post is about how the greens’ sleaze tactics are backfiring in Massachusetts. In that State, the League of Women Voters is running ugly advertisements that essentially equate baby-abuse with Senator Scott Brown’s vote for excellent legislation that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about this zero class, wrongheaded attack analogy. Move On made the same insinuation in a similar, recent advertisement.

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