Danger: Federal “Regulatory Cliff” Ahead

By:  William F. Jasper
Danger: Federal “Regulatory Cliff” Ahead

The U.S. government says that in the last 90 days, it instituted nearly 6,000 new rules, with loads more to come. If its plans remain unchecked, we’ll face another economic “cliff.”

The “fiscal cliff” has been the subject of daily headlines and fierce debates. But what about the “regulatory cliff”? Is the Obama administration unleashing a pre-planned tsunami of post-election regulations that would — if allowed to take effect — sweep us over that precipice?

Everything seems to be pointing in that direction. Many of the administration’s critics, this publication included, warned this was coming. Shortly before the November 2012 presidential elections, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) charged that “President Obama has big plans to continue pushing his far left green agenda in a second term” with a “slew of job-killing EPA regulations that the Obama-EPA has put on hold until after the election but will be on the ‘to-do’ list for 2013.”

In a 13-page minority report issued in October entitled “A Look Ahead to EPA Regulations for 2013,” Sen. Inhofe, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, warned that “numerous Obama-EPA rules placed on hold until after the election spell doom for jobs and economic growth.”

“American families,” said the Inhofe report, “will be subjected to a regulatory onslaught that will drive up energy prices, destroy millions of jobs, and further weaken the economy. Those in poor communities and on fixed incomes, who are already spending around 24% of their income on higher energy prices, will be hurt the most.”

Sen. Inhofe has highlighted (see here and here), for instance, these horrendously costly and disruptive EPA regulations:

Ozone rule: The EPA has proposed tightening the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. The compliance cost could range from $19 to $90 billion, making them the most expensive EPA regulations ever proposed. If these rules go into effect, many towns and cities across the nation not currently in violation of EPA ozone standards will suddenly find themselves on the agency’s “dirty air list” and will be subject to costly fines and mitigation mandates.

Utility MACT: EPA’s Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules will force the retirement of 30 to 100 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity. That’s the potential elimination of 20 percent of America’s coal plants, along with hundreds of thousands of jobs. The impact will be felt hardest in these states: West Virginia, 90 percent coal-fired; Ohio, 80 percent coal-fired; Michigan, 60 percent coal-fired; Minnesota, 60 percent coal-fired; and Wisconsin, 66 percent coal-fired.

Boiler MACT: Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology would impose stringent emission limits and monitoring requirements for industrial boilers used in manufacturing, processing, mining, and refining, as well as commercial boilers used in malls, laundries, apartments, restaurants, and hotels. IHS-Global Insight concluded that the proposal could put up to 798,250 jobs at risk. Moreover, they said every $1 billion spent on upgrade and compliance costs will put 16,000 jobs at risk and reduce U.S. GDP by as much as $1.2 billion.

Farm Dust Rule: The EPA, which has been regulating farm dust for decades, indicates it may tighten the standards as part of its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). This could very likely put the standard below the amount of dust created during normal farming operations, making it impossible to meet. The effect will be to drive many already-struggling family farms into insolvency — and to drive up food prices even higher.

Greenhouse Gas Regulations: These rules, says the minority report, “will cost more than $300 to $400 billion a year, and significantly raise the price of gas at the pump and energy in the home. It’s not just coal plants that will be affected: under the Clean Air Act (CAA), churches, schools, restaurants, hospitals and farms will eventually be regulated.” Many farms, for example, would be slaughtered by the EPA’s cost-per-animal outcome known as the “cow tax.” According to the report, “EPA itself estimates that in its best case scenario, there will be over 37,000 farms and ranches subject to greenhouse gas permits at an average cost of $23,000 per permit annually, affecting over 90% of the livestock production in the United States.”

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