Is the EPA Helping or Hurting America?

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry has long been wary of being further regulated, especially by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over the past year, the EPA through its “Clean Power Plan” issued a rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, and most recently, extended this rule to include existing facilities.

The broad goal of this initiative is to protect the public’s health by cutting 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions – namely carbon dioxide – from power plants by 2030. While this is an exceptional endeavor, the costs may be greater than the benefits. In other words, should jobs and the economy suffer at the expense of potential environmental advances? Maybe, but there are other issues that need to be brought to light.

For instance, the concept of transitioning from coal to natural gas sounds simple enough, but it’s not. Simply put, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will put many coal-fired plants out of business by imposing burdensome fines that manufacturers will not be able to pay. What’s more, the American Action Forum found consumers could be faced with a more than 10 percent increase in electricity bills by 2020, which is at least $150 more for the average consumer.

Due to the rising electricity costs on manufacturers, many may offshore their operations. Not only would this reverse the recent American manufacturing resurgence, which has largely led to economic recovery, but it would also increase emissions. These factors have come to be known as “carbon leakage” as it counters the would-be progress of the proposal.

The United States has greatly diminished its dependence on foreign energy in recent years and could very well be on its way to changing this trend completely based on information from British Petroleum’s 2014 Statistical Review of World Energy. The manufacturing revival has been largely credited to the American energy boom. If the EPA succeeds with its initiative, the U.S. economy could tank back to recession levels and cripple America’s competitive advantage.

States all across the nation are worried about the proposed rules. Recently, the EPA held public hearings throughout the U.S. including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh as consumers on both sides adamantly made their voice heard. Also more recently, over a dozen states including West Virginia, Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and Indiana filed a suit against the EPA claiming the agency is overstepping its authority under the Clean Air Act. Earlier this summer, Murray Energy along with nine states filed a lawsuit against the EPA making the same claims.

The EPA says it has received more than 300,000 comments on its proposed rules, though its deadline runs until October 16. The agency plans to issue its final rules next June.

All this news begs an even bigger question – is the federal government overstepping its intended power? Rules and policy within reason are valuable, but will the United States’ economy begin to falter if the rate of regulation continues to rise? And, is this acceptable if environmental  progress is made? According to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI), the government has announced over 2300 manufacturing-related regulations since 1981. While these numbers are startling, what’s even scarier is the amount of authority given to a government agency. Should an agency be able to surpass Congress? Even if an agency such as the EPA should have this power, can it adequately get the job done?

It’s these questions that lead to yet another question – where does this regulation stop?  The United States is built on a democracy, but regulation appears to be taking over. How did it go this far? Looking back, the U.S. always adds more but never reverts back to a lesser regulated state. Is this the way it should be? Let the conversation begin.

 

    August 28, 2014

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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