U.S. Energy Industry Lobbies for Bush Do-Nothing Plan

Mon, 2007-12-10 12:43Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

U.S. Energy Industry Lobbies for Bush Do-Nothing Plan

In a Dec. 7, 2007 letter to Members of the U.S. Senate (below), a cabal of energy producers and big polluters have attacked the State-level efforts to toughen global warming regulations, supporting instead the almost irrelevant measures currently in place at the national level.

Rather than deal with California-driven emission limits that would actually limit emissions, the lobbyists said: “The vehicle efficiency improvement standard and the alternative fuels provisions in the President Bush's energy proposals and in the energy legislation are preferred approaches.”

If he was capable of embarrassment, this would be a moment for President George Bush to blush.

As in Canada, U.S. energy lobbyists have successfully blocked any real climate change regulation at the national level and are now trying to block action by other levels of government. Yet, municipal and state governments are the only ones currently enacting real solutions in the fight to contain global warming. The U.S. (with Canada's increasing support), refused to ratify the international Kyoto Protocol and U.S. officials are, even now, trying to block any effort to institute binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions at the international level.

Domestically, U.S. courts have found that CO2 is a “pollutant” that should be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. If that responsibility works its way into legislation - at the state or national levels - it could demand a regulatory regime that industry argues would be expensive and cumbersome.

And that's a reasonable point - one that should encourage the government to consider a more efficient approach to dealing with global warming, like a carbon tax.

The energy lobbyists, and the Bush administration that rests so deeply in the the energy lobby's pocket, continue to promote an alternative that amounts to an irresponsible plan of inaction. We have to hope that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate recognize this effort for what it is and reject this letter and its proposals out of hand.

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE:

The complexity and broad scope of the energy legislation now under
consideration raises several important issues with regard to overlapping
regulatory authorities under the Clean Air Act. These issues must be
addressed now in order to prevent the unintended triggering of an expansive
and costly stationary source control program.

Any effort to establish a low-carbon fuel standard or to control carbon or
any other greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles or fuels under the Clean
Air Act could cause these substances to be regarded as pollutants subject to
regulation more broadly under the Act. Under the provisions of the Act, this
in turn would trigger a pre-construction permit program that will affect
hundreds of thousands of very small stationary sources that have hitherto
not been subject to requirements under the Act. Initial estimates suggest
that the majority of small, mid-sized, and large manufacturing businesses –
over 300,000 facilities – would potentially become regulated stationary
sources. In addition, hundreds of thousands of commercial buildings as well
as over a hundred thousand farm operations could be impacted.

The expected transaction and administrative costs of the program for
individual sources, states, and the federal government would be
unprecedented. Thousands of determinations as to whether the Clean Air Act's
regulatory requirements are triggered would be required. Given the potential
number of permits and the resulting delay in permit issuance, the
construction and modification of plants would likely come to a standstill,
causing significant harm to the economy. Even the ability to produce
renewable fuels could be hampered through the imposition of lengthy
pre-construction permitting requirements.

To address this problem and the broader problem of conflicting and
overlapping regulatory authorities, the energy bill now under consideration
must do two things. First, the energy legislation must contain explicit
language clarifying that nothing in this bill can be construed as triggering
the regulation of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas under the Clean Air Act.
This will prevent the unintended and costly regulatory program described
above from being triggered.

Second, the legislation must address the potential for duplicating and
conflicting regulatory requirements by clarifying that carbon dioxide and
other greenhouse gases cannot be regulated under Title II of the Clean Air
Act. Title II of the Clean Air Act addresses emissions from fuels and
vehicles which are the same sources that are subject to requirements under
the energy bill. Directing the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration to establish new fuel economy standards could be undermined
if those same sources are required to achieve conflicting standards under
the Clean Air Act. Given the extraordinary challenge industry may be asked
to address, it is only fair that there be one regulatory body and one set of
regulatory requirements. Creating duplicative and potentially conflicting
regulatory requirements would almost certainly delay the very technology
advances sought by the legislation. The vehicle efficiency improvement
standard and the alternative fuels provisions in the President Bush's energy
proposals and in the energy legislation are preferred approaches to
achieving substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while reducing
U.S. reliance on foreign energy sources.

Sincerely,

American Forest & Paper Association
American Gas Association
National Association of Manufacturers
National Mining Association
National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce