The PJ Tatler

Union, Texas Congressional delegation agree: The EPA is threatening the Texas economy

On April 13, 2011, the EPA publishing its ruling that Texas must comply with the Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR). Using the CATR, the EPA is set to include Texas in the national sulfur dioxide program, without any comment from any of the state’s stakeholders, political leaders or industry leaders allowed. No public review, just bam!, Texans get the EPA jackboot. The EPA’s effort to strong arm Texas away from its successful and flexible state-level clean air program, established in the 1990s and which has enjoyed bipartisan support, and into the EPA’s less effective national program has been building since President Obama’s inauguration. The CATR ruling may bring that battle to a head.

As one might expect, the mostly Republican Texas Congressional delegation is very unhappy with the EPA’s actions. On June 16, it fired off a protest letter to Cass Sunstein, administrator of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the OMB. The letter notes the total lack of input the EPA gave the state of Texas, and further notes that the rule change is likely to cost the state billions of dollars while cutting electrical power that will be available to the state’s citizens and industry. After noting the rule’s many other inadequacies, the letter asks OMB to evaluate the EPA’s “seriously flawed” ruling. The letter, downloadable in PDF format here, is signed by the Republican members of Texas’ delegation to Congress. The Texas Democrats apparently took a pass.

It’s a rare moment when Republicans and unions agree on much, but as it turns out, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union agrees: The EPA is dangerously overreaching in its CATR finding. The IBEW also fired off a letter of protest on June 16, to Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Regulation. The letter strongly protests the EPA’s failure to allow for any comment on the rule change, and expresses the IBEW’s concern that “including Texas in the final CATR for SO2 would result in significant increases in electricity rates, temporary or even permanent shutdown of existing coal-fired power plants, reduced capacity reserves and enormous job losses. This action would directly jeopardize the jobs of approximately 1,500 IBEW members working at six different power plants across the state of Texas.”

That Texas economic success story you’ve been hearing so much about in the news lately? The EPA’s actions here threaten it very directly, by increasing electricity costs while throwing thousands of Texans out of work. If the EPA wants Texas’ unemployment rate to climb up to the higher national average, this ruling may help that along.

White House chief of staff Bill Daley found himself confronted by angry manufacturers this past week, who were upset at the way the Obama administration keeps “throwing sand in the gears” of US industry. At one point, Daley is said to have thrown up his hands in exasperation and said:

“Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible.”

Indeed. And thus far, this administration’s record on putting bureaucracy and ideology in the way of economic activity and recovery is truly indefensible.

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