The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed several aggressive climate regulations in 2023 that could seriously harm the American economy, energy policy experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The agency proposed or finalized rules that would spur the electric vehicle (EV) transition, decrease power grid reliability by imposing costly restrictions on power plants, tighten air quality standards and more in 2023. Under the Biden administration, the EPA has made considerable efforts to further regulations that would nominally help to counter climate change, often at the expense of the American economy, energy policy experts told the DCNF.
“The EPA took a disturbing trend to a new level in 2023: a willingness to use its regulatory power to kill off industries, dictate or influence what businesses can operate and limit what goods and services are available to the public,” Daren Bakst, the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, told the DCNF. “Congress never envisioned the agency’s authorized regulatory power would be used as a tool for the agency to engage in central planning, reshape industries and limit consumer choice.”
The “Clean Power Plan 2.0″
The EPA’s May proposal to slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants would require fossil fuel-fired generation facilities to adopt expensive developing technologies, such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and hydrogen blending, in order to come into compliance over the coming decades. If finalized in its current form, the regulations— which the EPA contends are legal under the auspices of the Clean Air Act— would significantly raise the chances of blackouts in a massive swath of the Midwest while imposing costs to stakeholders totaling nearly $250 billion, according to analysis conducted by the Center of the American Experiment (CAE).
Power the Future, an energy advocacy organization, dubbed the proposal the “Clean Power Plan 2.0” in a November report because of its strong resemblance to the Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” proposal, which the Supreme Court struck down in its landmark decision in West Virginia v. EPAin 2022.
The EPA is moving forward with the proposal, despite the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and a key official for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission warning that the premature retirement of fossil fuel-fired baseload generation and increased reliance on intermittent green energy, like wind and solar, threatens future grid reliability.
“The proposed rule does not require that plants go offline,” an EPA spokesperson told the DCNF in August. “The proposed rule would require plants to install proven technology to abate greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal provides owners and operators of power plants with ample lead time and substantial compliance flexibilities, allowing power companies and grid operators to make sound long-term planning and investment decisions, and supporting the power sector’s ability to continue delivering reliable and affordable electricity.”
However, CAE and one of its leading grid experts, Isaac Orr, are not convinced.
The agency “does not appear to have the expertise necessary to enact such a sweeping regulation on the American power sector,” CAE wrote in its August comments in response to the agency’s proposal.
“This is the regulatory equivalent of studying the structural integrity of the top floor of a 100-story building without doing so for the preceding 99 floors,” Orr told the DCNF.
Tailpipe Emissions Standards
In April, the agency unveiled its proposal for new tailpipe emissions standards in an effort to curb emissions attributable to transportation. The proposed standards would be historically stringent if finalized and they would effectively mandate that 67% of all light-duty vehicles sold after model year 2032 are EVs, according to the EPA.
Under the proposed rules, 46% of medium-duty vehicle sales and 25% of heavy-duty sales will be EVs, according to the agency’s projections.
The proposal could be “tremendously damaging for the American people,” Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Energy, Climate and Environment, told the DCNF. “The reason the agency is pushing these rules is because Congress would never pass these as laws … this rule would be very damaging for Americans and get rid of an iconic means of transportation.”
The administration has spent billions to facilitate its ambitious EV push, and other agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have promulgated their own similar rules as well. Despite these efforts, the American EV market is on tenuous footing: consumer demand is not growing as rapidly as anticipated, companies are losing large sums of money on their EV product lines, auto executives are starting to back away from short-term EV production targets and the nation’s EV charging infrastructure remains inconsistent and unevenly distributed across the country.
Notably, the House passed a bill that would effectively nullify the proposal earlier in December by a bipartisan vote, but it is unlikely to make it through the Senate, and the White House has suggested that President Joe Biden will veto the bill if it lands on his desk, according to The Hill.
Fine Particulate Pollution Standards
In January, the EPA proposed to tighten the existing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5) in order “to better protect communities, including those most overburdened by pollution,” the agency announced in a press release.
More than 70 industrial executives penned a letter to White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients warning him that it could lead to massive swaths of the nation falling out of compliance with the rule, which would in turn choke economic development and complicate key goals of Biden’s own green industrial agenda, according to its text.
The states that would be most directly impacted by a finalized PM 2.5 NAAQS update would be Texas, California, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Illinois, according to the letter’s text.
“PM 2.5 is the most demonstrable science fraud going on at the EPA,” Steve Milloy, a senior legal fellow for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, previously told the DCNF. “There is more than enough scientific research to demonstrate that what EPA is doing here is fraud, and it is really a testament to the corruption of the scientific community.”
If finalized, the proposal would kill jobs and put the EPA in a position to deny local economies the right to develop, because states that can not comply with the tightened standards would have to receive approval from the agency to develop new industrial factories and power facilities, Milloy told the DCNF.
The EPA projects that the policy would generate up to $43 billion in net health benefits in 2032, as well as prevent 4,200 premature deaths per year and restore 270,000 lost workdays per year by reducing the current standard of allowable fine particle pollution by up to 25%.
Waters of the United States
In January, the agency proposed a regulation that would define the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the EPA’s regulatory purview as “navigable waters” to include lands containing small streams and wetlands. A federal court blocked the January proposal in April, finding that the 24 states that sued the agency had “persuasively shown that the new 2023 Rule poses a threat to their sovereign rights and amounts to irreparable harm.”
Then, in May, the Supreme Court limited the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act — which it had cited as the enabling statute for the January proposal — in its decision in Sackett v. EPA, a case brought by a couple whom the EPA tried to stop from constructing a house on their land in Idaho.
In August, the agency “finalized amendments to its January rule, which are just a half-hearted and incomplete set of corrections to try and fix the flawed rule,” Bakst told the DCNF. “These amendments don’t properly comply with the Sackett opinion and fail to provide needed clarity to implement the opinion. And they did so without seeking public comment.”
The EPA exhibited a “complete disregard for private property owners and the rule of law” in its proceedings pursuant to WOTUS regulation in 2023, Bakst told the DCNF.
Neither the EPA nor the White House responded immediately to a request for comment.
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