There exists a balance between environmental standards and a respect for jobs that the Environmental Protection Agency has been unable to find.
Last June, in a little-noticed regulatory action, the EPA proposed new standards for industrial boilers and process heaters. The standards, known as the boiler MACT proposal, were so strict that President and CEO of the Biomass Power Association Bob Cleaver described them as “unachievable.” A recent study found that the new standards would result in a loss of up to 337,000 jobs and cost more than $5.7 billion in new taxes.
The agency’s history with climate change has been even worse. When Democrats in Congress pushed their cap-and-trade bill in 2009, the EPA went to work to cook the books. It was the EPA’s financial analysis that let Democrats declare the legislation would cost less than “a postage stamp a day” for each American family.
But to reach this conclusion, the EPA had to assume impossibly rapid growth in nuclear power and an impossible explosion of the availability of “international offsets” — essentially emission reductions in developing countries paid for by U.S. and European companies.
The EPA knew its assumptions were impossible and admitted that the cost estimates would be much higher without them. But President Barack Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had frequently argued for a Congressionally mandated cap-and-trade program. The EPA knew its “optimistic” assumptions were necessary in order to project politically feasible costs for the Democratic legislation.
Now that the Democrats’ new energy tax has sputtered in Congress — and was rejected by voters — the EPA has accelerated efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by fiat. The EPA has already claimed the legal authority to regulate every manufacturer and energy producer in the country and has even suggested it has the authority to implement a cap-and-trade program similar to the one Congress recently rejected.
Carbon emissions are intimately tied to our energy production, and our economy cannot function without affordable energy. Any regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will therefore require a painstaking balance between environmental necessity and economic costs. It is frightening to imagine how an agency that intentionally skews its cost estimates will draw these lines.
Republicans won back the House in the recent elections because voters are demanding more responsible government. This means less government spending, but it also means serious oversight.
To help achieve this, the new Speaker of the House should rebrand and reauthorize the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
In 2006, when the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi authorized the Select Committee. From the start, it seemed dedicated to promoting a lack of balance in environmental policies.
The Select Committee’s majority fought for a cap-and-trade bill that would have raised U.S. energy prices without any discernible environmental benefit — the emissions would simply have been sent overseas with our jobs. The majority simultaneously pushed for a one-sided international agreement that would have bound the U.S. without setting corresponding requirements on our international competitors.
Some of my Republican colleagues have argued that the Select Committee should be abolished to eliminate its relatively small cost. I sympathize with their desire to cut spending, but I think that eliminating the committee would be a mistake.
Reigniting our economy will require more than reducing spending. While spending reductions are critical, the new Republican majority must also ensure that authorized funds are spent effectively and that new regulations are not overly burdensome.
In the Select Committee’s minority, we opposed this spending here and abroad. Now that Republicans have retaken the House, the Select Committee is more qualified than any other Congressional institution to ensure the administration doesn’t bend to unrealistic international demands — and that the EPA doesn’t attempt to do what Congress wouldn’t.
The complexity of EPA regulations and international climate negotiations warrants a committee dedicated to ensuring that our environmental policies have the balance that the EPA has proven unable to find. Beyond climate change regulations, the reauthorized Select Committee would perform oversight of Boiler MACT, fracking, coal ash regulations and countless other EPA efforts.
Far from being a cost, I believe that by ensuring that environmental concerns are appropriately balanced against economic considerations, the Select Committee will save the country billions of dollars and countless jobs. With the threat of one-sided EPA regulations quelled, we could work with Democrats in Congress and with the White House to further technological developments in the energy sector and broaden our energy portfolio without risking economic ruin.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) is ranking member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.