EPA Blows Smoke With New Air Standards

EPA Blows Smoke With New Air Standards

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By Daryl Bassett

What if I told you, behind door number one I could prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year, help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year? You would pretty much go for whatever was behind door number one.

In this particular case, behind door number one is the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Announced December 21, 2011 at a children’s healthcare facility, the EPA tries to sell its new set of standard with fear and propaganda pitches.

Protecting the environment and curtailing potential health issues are necessary and laudable goals for the EPA. Sound policy, however, should not be based on speculation and false transparency.

According to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, “The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance.”

What Administrator Jackson fails to clarify or quantify, however, is what she means by “costs of compliance,” a turn of phrase she might as well replace with “severe job loss.”

The EPA’s proposed standards “will result in retirement of a significant number of power plants and either fail to replace that capacity or replace it with less labor-intensive forms of generation,” says Scott Segal, Director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a coalition of utilities that work on air issues.  “It will increase the cost of power, undermining the international competitiveness of almost two dozen manufacturing industries, and it will reduce employment upstream in the mining sectors.”

The EPA argues that the rule will create 9,000 jobs and have annual economic benefits of up to $140 billion per year. Segal and his experts know that’s not quite the case:  “The rule will result in the loss of some 1.44 million jobs by 2020.  While some jobs are created by complying with the new rule, the number and quality of those jobs is far less than those destroyed.  We estimate that for every one temporary job created, four higher-paying permanent jobs are lost.”

Can we really afford those kind of economic setbacks at this time? The clear answer is no.

But should we sacrifice the respiratory health of our children in order to stave off more economic woes?

No, we shouldn’t sacrifice our children for our jobs, but there is more at stake in the balancing act between environmental and economic interests than simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions can grasp.  And in reality, the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards do not directly affect the respiratory health of our children, and suggesting it does as a means of selling this bill to the public is deceptive, damaging and unfortunate.

The EPA would like you to believe the mandated new control technologies will reduce mercury from coal-fired power plants by 90% and avoid as many as 17,000 premature deaths per year, however, as The Hill reports, “the claimed benefits are almost entirely illusory.”

Susan Dudley writes,

“The [claimed benefits of the rules] are derived not from reducing the toxic emissions that the EPA is statutorily obligated to address (and which its press releases tout), but by counting what it refers to as “co-benefits.” These co-benefits comprise 99.996% of the total benefits the EPA estimates, and arise not directly from reducing toxic emissions, but from other things that the EPA thinks will happen as beneficial side effects.”

Let me get this right:

These rules do not provide much more in the way of additional safeguards or protections than what already exist?

The EPA wants to enact policy that will eliminate 1.44 million jobs while drastically increasing the cost of electricity because they “think” the tangential benefits “might” reduce 17,000 premature deaths and mean the creation of a few thousand (31,000 short-term construction, 9,000 long-term utility) jobs.

Worse, they want you and me to get on board with it because they make the announcement four days before Christmas at a children’s health care facility, and have the endorsement of the American Lung Association (whom they have given some $20M to over the last 10 years)?

The disregard of facts and faulty claims based on un-tested promises of jobs and supposed health benefits means the EPA isn’t just trying to regulate America’s air quality, but its blowing a lot of hot air of its own.

DARYL BASSETT is the public policy and regulatory spokesperson for EmPower Consumers. He has previously served as Commissioner with the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Bassett, a graduate of Harding University is a past President of Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (SEARUC). Prior to joining the Public Service Commission, he served as the Governor’s Budget Director and the Governor’s Policy Advisor for numerous state agencies. Before entering public service, Daryl was an investment banker with Merrill Lynch. Daryl currently resides in Arkansas.

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