OPINION: Wall Street Journal Editorial "The EPA's War on Jobs"

June 13, 2011

WALL STREET JOURNAL...

EDITORIAL...
June 13, 2011
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President Obama's jobs council will make its first recommendations today on lifting hiring and strengthening the economy. Too bad the message doesn't seem to be reaching the Administration's regulators, in particular the Environmental Protection Agency.
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The EPA is currently conducting a campaign against coal-fired power and one of its most destructive weapons is a pending regulation to limit mercury and other hazardous air pollutants like dioxins or acid gases that power plants emit. The 946-page rule mandates that utilities install "maximum achievable control technology" under the Clean Air Act--and even by the EPA's lowball estimates, it is the most expensive rule in the agency's history.
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In 1990, Congress gave the EPA discretion to decide if mercury regulation is "necessary and appropriate," and the Clinton Administration did so in its final days. The Bush Administration created a modest mercury program, only to have it overturned by an appeals court on technical grounds in its final days. The case was still in litigation when Mr. Obama took office, and his appointees used the opening to strafe the power industry, proposing a much more stringent rule.
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The EPA issued the utility rule in March, with only 60 days for public comment. Basic administrative practice usually affords between 120 and 180 days, especially for complex or costly regulations of this scale. The proposal was obviously rushed, with numerous errors like overstating U.S. mercury emissions by a factor of 1,000. The word in Washington is that the openly politicized process unsettled even the EPA's career staff.
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The agency estimates that the utility rule will cost $10.9 billion annually but will yield as much as $140 billion in total health and environmental benefits. Sounds like a deal. But most of those alleged benefits are indirect--i.e., not from the mercury reductions that the rule is supposed to be for. Rather, they come from pollutants ("airborne particles") that the EPA already regulates under other parts of the Clean Air Act. A good analogy is a corporation double-counting revenue.
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According to the EPA's own numbers, every dollar in direct benefits costs $1,847. The reason is that electric generation--yes, even demon coal--results in negligible quantities of air pollutants like mercury. And mercury is on the decline: In 2005, the entire U.S. coal fleet emitted 26% less than the EPA predicted.
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The real goal of the EPA's rule is to shut down fossil fuel electric power in the name of climate change. The consensus estimate in the private sector is that the utility rule and eight others on the EPA docket will force the retirement of 60 out of the country's current 340 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity. Reliability downgrades will hit the South and Midwest where coal energy is concentrated. American Electric Power recently announced that the rules will force it to shut down five plants in West Virginia and Ohio, a quarter of its coal fleet.
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The power industry estimates that the true costs of the utility rule will far exceed the EPA estimates, which of course will be passed to consumers and businesses as higher prices. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, normally a White House union ally, says the rule will destroy 50,000 jobs and another 200,000 down the supply chain. That's more jobs lost than if Boeing went bust.
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To read the entire editorial, click here.
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