Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Toomey takes on the EPA for all our sakes
Corporations hate the Environmental Protection Agency because it enforces federal laws, adopted by Congress, to make them clean up their own environmental messes.Now their knight in shining armor, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Teapublican-Pa., is riding to their rescue because, he says, the EPA is a “job killer.”
He is particularly incensed because the EPA is enforcing new standards to make cement kilns take hundreds of tons of mercury, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid and fine particulates out of the atmosphere beginning in 2013.
According to the EPA, the new regulations will affect 158 of 181 Portland cement kilns around the country.
Fully implementing the regulations will yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar of costs, prevent as many as 2,500 premature deaths, 1,500 heart attacks, 17,000 cases of aggravated asthma, 740 hospital emissions and 130,000 lost workdays due to respiratory illnesses per year.
The problem from the cement industry’s point of view is, it will be paying that $1 in costs while the public will be reaping that $7 to $19 in health benefits. Totally not fair! Just because it’s doing the polluting, why should it have to pay to clean it up? Especially in this down economy, etc., etc.
Toomey has introduced a bill, S. 1292, “the Employment Protection Act of 2011” (get it? “EPA”) that would require the Environmental Protection Agency “to consider the impact on employment levels and economic activity” prior to issuing any new regulations, implementing any new or substantially altered program or denying any permit.
The problem here is that the EPA started the process of setting higher standards for cement kilns in 1999 when, if I recall, the economy was perking along pretty good. It did an extensive evaluation of the economic and social impacts of the proposed regulations culminating in a 115-page report, Regulatory Impact Analysis: National Emission standards doer Hazardous Air Pollutants from the Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry, which it published in 2009. It concluded that the cement industry would suffer a 4 percent decline in revenues and greater competition from foreign manufacturers.
The EPA published the proposed rules in the Federal Register, took public comment as required, analyzed those comments and published its final rules (97 pages) in the Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 174, Sept. 9, 2010. The whole record runs to many thousands of pages (you can look all this up on the EPA site, www.epa.gov should you want something to put you to sleep for the next month or so).
Thus the rulemaking took 11 years and withstood a couple of lawsuits, all while the economy was going up and down as economies tend to do. Actually implementing the rules will take 14 years. Please note, it was NOT initiated by the Obama Administration and it was carried out throughout the Bush Administration.
Toomey’s proposed “EPA” bill requires that if a new EPA regulation costs more than 100 jobs (not to be offset by the creation of any new jobs) or more than $1 million in economic activity (across the entire affected industry) in a year, the EPA would be required to hold public hearings and citizens (read corporations, since, after all, corporations are people) can sue to enjoin the implementation of the regulation.
Notwithstanding that the EPA can never know if a regulation will cost 100 jobs (or if the industry will just fire 100 people to prevent its implementation), this absurdly low bar and short time frame would, of course, totally cripple the EPA and lead to its demise.
But if S. 1292 doesn’t do the trick, Toomey has also signed on as a cosponsor, along with 16 other Republican senators, of S. 892, which would do away with the EPA as an independent agency and fold it in with the Department of Energy.
That bill would also kill billions of dollars in energy and environmental programs (not to mention the jobs they generate), including the weatherization program, deep water gas and oil research and development programs, pollution control programs, state drinking water loan funds, certain watershed grants, climate change grants, tribal assistance grants and a host of others too numerous to mention.
Since the EPA regulates what the Department of Energy facilitates, this could, and probably would, lead to the same ridiculous results that we saw in the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill, where the same DOE agency supposedly oversaw drilling safety standards and collected revenues from BP. How’d that work out?
Toomey, like the rest of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, is attempting to reframe the debate into the kind of “Newspeak” where only his logic can prevail.
Let’s talk only about how the EPA “kills jobs,” and never, ever talk about its actual reason for existing. Let’s never mention the amazing job the EPA has been doing since 1970 keeping our air pure and our drinking water safe, preventing future Love Canals, acid rain and burning Cayahoga Rivers and saving millions upon millions of lives that would have been lost to respiratory diseases and poisoning by heavy metals and radiation.
The EPA, proposed and signed into law by that radical socialist Richard Nixon, is the reason we are not China, where you can see the air as you try to breathe it, where countless rivers run thick with sewage and garbage, where millions suffer from preventable respiratory diseases and where hundreds of millions of people have no access to clean, safe drinking water. By the way, the soil in China’s industrialized regions isn’t safe for growing food either. How’d you like to live in that country? Apparently Toomey would.
It’s true that all government regulations may be job killers to some extent and at certain times, though that is not their purpose, and many regulations create jobs and save money – inspections, green energy, construction, prosecution of fraud, competition among companies and prevention of diseases.
On the other hand, the lack of government regulation is absolutely people-killing all the time. The government has a legitimate, even an honored place, doing the work that no private entity could or would do to look out for our health and safety.
These two bills are unlikely to become law, unless the voters are crazy enough to keep on sending Tea Partiers to Congress or to the White House, but now that Toomey is on the “Super Congress” panel, we can expect to see many of the programs listed for elimination in S. 892 on his list for cutting in any case.