This intrusion into the private sector is all the worse when one understands just what kind of people in the bureaucracy will be making these decisions. There are a few notable exceptions, but for the most part, the men and women who write permits fall into one of two categories: a) kids a few years out of college who know very little about any industrial process, or b) older folks who couldn’t hack it in the private sector because they don’t have sufficient talent, enough intelligence or both. In either case, it is a constant struggle for industry to make permit writers understand the relatively simple issues that involve what’s coming out of a smokestack. Asking these same people to grasp what happens in an entire manufacturing or power producing process is a recipe for chaos.
These same permit writers will also be asked to make a rather remarkable decision: whether to allow a facility to increase the amount of “traditional” air pollutants like particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, if such an increase is the price to pay for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. This is another unprecedented development. For decades, environmental groups have fought against the very appearance of “backsliding” when it comes to air pollution emissions from industrial sources. Yet, praying at the altar of the false god of global warming, this administration has said in writing that backsliding can be OK, so long as greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. One can get a lot more energy out of a ton of Illinois coal, for example, but Illinois coal contains much more sulfur than the low sulfur, lower energy western coal that’s commonly burned today. Jackson’s guidance would seem to open the door to using the former, without worrying about pesky sulfur dioxide so much. Finally, according to Jackson’s guidance, state and local agencies should consider increasing permit fees in order to cover the costs of implementing greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act. They have the authority to do so, the administrator says, under the act already, even though nobody has gone through any sort of formal rule-making process with regard to greenhouse gases.
Ironically, even if you adhere to global warming alarmism, none of this nonsense is necessary. The US has reduced greenhouse gas emission down to mid-nineties levels. China is the big player in terms of greenhouse gases and will only get bigger. The combination of Renewable Portfolio Standards (which require utilities to gradually reduce their fossil fuel use over time) and regional cap and trade programs means that well over half of the states are committed to making drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Why does the USEPA need to step in to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when we are already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
It all sounds rather surreal, but there doesn’t seem to be much chance of stopping this hurtling train of environmental extremism. Because this policy is being implemented as guidance, Lisa Jackson isn’t required to solicit comments, much less respond to them. Nonetheless, she has agreed to a public comment period before the EPA finalizes its new policy. That comment period opened on Wednesday and closes on December 1st, a grand total of fourteen days that includes the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a move reminiscent of the Democrats’ rush to pass the healthcare bill so we could “learn what was in it.” It will be impossible for industry groups and free market advocates to digest the implications of this radical shift in policy, much less respond effectively to it. That’s undoubtedly exactly what Lisa Jackson wants. EPA regulation of greenhouse gases is scheduled to begin on January 2, 2011, a date that will mark the beginning of the last chapter in the once proud history of America’s industrial sector.
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