West Virginia: Climate Change Battleground
Monday, Dec. 7, 2009 – A date which will live in infamy.
We’ve talked about this before (West Virginia Watchdog, Sept. 29, 2009), but Monday truly showed that West Virginia is on the front lines in the battle to decide how much affect man has on the the climate changes this planet has been going through before man even existed.
We won’t spent a lot of time re-hashing the events of Monday: the Environmental Protection Agency said that carbon dioxide threatens the public health and welfare of the American people, Robert Kennedy Jr. led a protest against mountaintop removal while miners led a counter-protest, and the University of Charleston held a debate about cap-and-trade between The Cato Institute’s Pat Michaels and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s David Hawkins.
All of this occurred in the shadow of the Copenhagen Summit, where world leaders will be dictating to the U.S., a sovereign nation, how much smoke can come out of out smokestacks. United Nations officials are already cheering our EPA’s position.
“It’s a very good signal indeed,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the Convention on Climate Change. “It makes it easier for the president of the United States to commit to something.”
“If I were a businessman, I would say please, please, please do a deal in Copenhagen and please, please, please make it market based,” said de Boer. “Every business knows that taxes and regulation tend to be a lot less efficient and a lot more expensive than market-based approaches.”
I’m confused how regulations set by a government agency with very little oversight somehow equals a market-based solution. You don’t do that by regulation, it’s done through incentives. But I digress.
The sad thing is the regulations currently in place have already done a great job of cleaning up the air. The Reason Foundation found a great success story:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just released a report showing that carbon dioxide emissions from light trucks, cars, and SUVs have fallen dramatically since 1975 even as the proportion of SUVs and trucks sold has increased to nearly half of all sales. Grams of carbon per mile have fallen from 579 in 1975 to 422 in 2009. Fuel economy has increased from 13.1 miles per gallon to 21.1.
You only need more regulation when your current regulations are failing. But the EPA just sent out a press release today claiming that toxic chemical releases showed a reduction in 2008:
The analysis, which includes data on 650 chemicals from more than 21,000 facilities, found that total releases to air decreased 14 percent, while releases to surface water increased 3 percent.
The report shows decreases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals including lead, dioxin, and mercury. Total disposal or other releases of mercury decreased 11 percent. Dioxin releases or disposal decreased 77 percent, while lead releases decreased by 2 percent. Releases of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) increased 121 percent. Because PCBs are no longer used in U.S. manufacturing, these releases represent the removal of PCBs from service for disposal at regulated hazardous waste facilities.
So why this move to make carbon dioxide the tobacco of gases? It’s a way to put pressure on Congress to pass some sort of cap-and-trade legislation. The Wall Street Journal said it best:
With cap and trade blown apart in the Senate, the White House has chosen to impose taxes and regulation across the entire economy under clean-air laws that were written decades ago and were never meant to apply to carbon. With this doomsday machine activated, Mr. Obama hopes to accomplish what persuasion and debate among his own party manifestly cannot.
This reckless “endangerment finding” is a political ultimatum: The many Democrats wary of levelling huge new costs on their constituents must surrender, or else the EPA’s carbon police will inflict even worse consequences.
The gambit is also meant to coerce businesses, on the theory that they’ll beg for cap and trade once the command-and-control regulatory pain grows too acute—not to mention the extra bribes in the form of valuable carbon permits that Democrats, since you ask, are happy to dispense. Ms. Jackson appealed to “the science” and waved off any political implications, yet the formal finding was not coincidentally announced at the start of the U.N.’s Copenhagen climate conference
Hopefully Congress won’t succumb to this artificial pressure. While EPA regulations on carbon dioxide emissions will hurt our state and national economy in the short run, at least the regs can be rolled back depending on who win the next election. A cap-and-trade bill from Congress would be far more damaging in the long term and far more complicated to undo. Russ Harding at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan said the following:
While only large industrial facilities have the potential to emit 250 tons of pollutants like sulfur dioxide, this is not the case with CO2. Many office buildings, enclosed malls, small buildings and other commercial establishments will now be required to obtain PSD permits. PSD permits require months of time and considerable money to obtain. EPA estimated that in 2007 an average PSD permit cost $125,120 to obtain and required 301 hours for EPA or a state environmental agency to process.
The EPA is already doing a number on our state’s coal mining industry. They pulled 79 surface mining permits for further review; 23 of those were for surface mine projects here in West Virginia. This move has created uncertainty in the coal industry, resulting in a decline in mining output this year. Just today news broke that 500 miners are being laid off by CONSOL Energy.
The EPA is determined to limit the use of coal despite having nothing to replace it with, and West Virginia will pay in higher taxes, higher utility prices, and higher unemployment.
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