Edicts, Emissions and the EPA

Even as the Environmental Protection Agency attempts to replace Congress as the policymaking branch of government with its endangerment finding for carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, the agency also pursues other, less prominent but still burdensome regulations. On Tuesday, Jan. 5, for example, the EPA is holding a daylong hearing in Atlanta to take public comment on its proposed regulation to place new restrictions on sulfur dioxide emissions. (EPA news release, EPA’s resource page on sulfur dioxide.)

Bryan Brendle, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Director of Energy and Resources Policy, summarizes the issue and state of play:

  • EPA is proposing to strengthen its “National Ambient Air Quality Standard” for emissions of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) as part of a mandatory review of the standard. Final comments are due on February 8.
  • EPA is holding a public hearing on the standard, which is meant to protect vulnerable populations such as asthmatics, in Atlanta on Jan. 5. Sectors most affected by a stricter SO2 standard include the chemical sector, aluminum sector and the petroleum refining sectors.
  • EPA’s proposed regulation constitutes one of many, which cumulatively, will have an adverse impact on the recovery of the manufacturing economy.
  • EPA is moving forward with this proposed regulation in the wake of its rulemaking on the “tailoring proposal,” which closed on Dec. 28 and a formal “endangerment finding” for greenhouse gases, which occurred on Dec. 7. [See Brendle’s testimony to the EPA on the tailoring proposal.]
  • In addition to proposed rules for greenhouse gases, EPA is also expected to issue a proposed regulation that will tighten the air quality standard for ozone emissions.

Bottom line:

  • EPA’s proposal reflects a deeply flawed process under the Clean Air Act, whereby the agency moves forward with stricter standards for individual pollutants with no regard to economic impacts or even administrative consistency with respect to other rulemakings.

The EPA’s imperial endangerment edict also serves to focus the media on that one issue, the regulation of greenhouse gases, meaning that economy-damaging proposals like the sulfur dioxide rule receive less public attention. Another example: the revised standards for ground-level ozone, a widely reported issue in 2007 and 2008, but largely ignored more recently.

So we hear lots about the Administration emphasizing jobs, jobs, jobs, but not so much about the Administration’s EPA making it more difficult to create jobs, jobs, jobs.

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