Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Two weeks ago I wrote that Republicans were doing a horrible job communicating what their current enemy of job creation, regulation, means to the average voter, and made a few suggestions to help transform an overused and nebulous buzzword into an issue that is better understood by voters. Just after I submitted the column to publish, I received an email from the office of Congressman Lynn Westmoreland announcing a weekly “Regulatory Roundup”, an effort to highlight specific regulations and explain how they are harmful to job creation and the economy. I’ll attribute the timing to coincidence much more than clairvoyance on my part.
In his initial report, Westmoreland cited a report from the U.S. Small Business Administration that calculated the regulatory burden for companies with 20 or fewer employees as a cost of $10,585 per employee. That cost is growing. A Heritage Foundation report claims that there were 43 major new regulations imposed on businesses in 2010 alone, with a total cost of $26.5 Billion.
This Week, Westmoreland has targeted the EPA and their additional regulations affecting power generation. Georgia Power has already announced that it will de-commission 3 coal burning power plants over the next few year because the cost of upgrading these facilities to comply with new regulations will be too great. The company anticipates having to buy additional power generation capacity from plants in other states, at a higher cost, which will be passed on to Georgia consumers.
Westmoreland cites two new EPA rules which significantly change the power generation industry, noting that each rule change was drafted and implemented “without a single action by Congress.” They are the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule, and the Cross-State Air Pollution rule. The two combined are estimated to cost $17.8 Billion annually when implemented.
The MACT Rule adds additional restrictions on the amount of mercury, acid gases, and non-mercury metals that power plants can release into the air during power generation. The EPA estimates the cost to implement at $10.9 Billion per year for power companies. Westmoreland claims it to be the one of the most costly regulation changes in the history of the EPA, noting that the cost estimate does not take into account additional consumer costs and other related expenses. He cites other studies which put the real cost closer to $100 Billion annually.
The CSAPR places a cap on the amount of total emissions from states in the Eastern U.S. to assist “downwind states” in meeting federal ozone standards. 27 states will be forced to make “dramatic” reductions in power plant emissions, according to the Congressman, despite a 56% reduction in sulfur emissions since 1980 and a 77 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions since 1990. A “Cap and Trade” proposal to limit carbon emissions went nowhere even under a Democratic Congress. Yet through an administrative regulatory decree, the EPA has demanded changes that would cost as much as $100 Million per power plant to be implemented. As noted above, Georgia Power has decided it must close three of its largest plants rather than make this investment. If other companies in neighboring states make similar decisions, however, that power that they expect to purchase in order fill the void could be dramatically more expensive than current prices, if it is available at all.
In response to the above issues, the House of Representatives is expected to pass the Transparence In Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act. TRAIN would require that EPA report to Congress on all direct and indirect impacts of new regulations prior to implementation. Westmoreland admits that the rule will be shelved immediately upon its arrival in the Senate, however. Partisan gridlock doesn’t apply just to budget matters, after all.
If you would like to follow Congressman Westmoreland’s full series on regulation, you can check out his website at www.house.gov/Westmoreland.