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Hey EPA: Don’t Mess with Texas

Lance Brown dissects and dismantles the Obama EPA's latest attack on the Lone Star State.

by
Lance Brown

Bio

September 30, 2010 - 12:00 am

Here’s some advice for the Environmental Protection Agency: Don’t mess with Texas.

Furthermore, don’t mess with our nation’s most affordable and reliable forms of energy, either.

After declaring greenhouse gases hazardous earlier this year, the EPA plans to use the Clean Air Act to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from emitters of all sizes beginning January 2011. The EPA’s plan has been widely criticized for being too burdensome and expensive, so the EPA attempted to downsize the plan with a “Tailoring Rule,” targeting only the largest emitters.

In August, Texas filed a lawsuit against the EPA, declaring the proposed “Tailoring Rule” illegal. The state rightly claims the EPA’s plan is unlawful because the Clean Air Act does not address greenhouse gases, even after its last revision by Congress in 1990.

Texas is not alone, as a number of states from Alabama to South Dakota have opposed the EPA’s plan, along with groups like the Ohio Coal Association and the National Alliance of Forest Owners.

It’s alarming enough that the EPA plans to regulate emitters like power plants and factories, which are necessary components of energy production and provide needed jobs. However, it’s even more alarming that the EPA would regulate at least one clean, reliable form of energy — woody biomass, which will not be exempt by the Tailoring Rule.

By regulating woody biomass — which is, in fact, carbon neutral — the EPA would be lumping foresters and biomass emissions with less clean energy producers like coal factories. In addition, the EPA would be ignoring long-held policy, based on scientific fact, and ignoring the carbon benefits of biomass.

The regulation of woody biomass runs counter to common sense. The EPA’s ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gases and get our country on a path to using more renewable energy sources. However, by regulating woody biomass, the EPA would be deterring the use of one of our country’s most reliable and inexpensive sources of clean, carbon-neutral energy.

Some states, like Maine, obtain about 30 percent of their energy from woody biomass. Because it is abundant and sustainable— foresters re-plant some 4 million trees every year — it’s a good renewable energy option for states that don’t have access to sources like wind and solar. (And, as I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, even states like Texas that do have high wind capacity aren’t able to utilize wind if the wind doesn’t blow!)

Let’s run through it again. The EPA is attempting to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, which might be illegal. In addition, it’s overturning decades of precedent regarding woody biomass, which has long been considered a reliable, clean, carbon-neutral source of energy. Furthermore, by imposing these regulations, especially on foresters and woody biomass producers, the EPA will be effectively killing a valuable source of energy and jobs at a time when we need both.

The EPA’s plan doesn’t make any sense, and many states and organizations are on to the administration’s misguided plan. Let’s hope the EPA realizes that it is making a huge mistake and leaves the energy legislating to our elected officials.

Lance Brown is the executive director of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy.
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