Washington Lobbyists and Prophets of Doom

Sidewalk prophets of doom and Washington lobbyists know the best time to hype an “end of the world” story is just before the world is scheduled to come to an end.  But the sidewalks are littered with the placards of doomsayers whose predictions flopped. 

That’s why industry lobbyists have been pushing so hard right now for a vote in the lame duck Senate to block EPA from doing its job to protect our health and welfare from the pollution that is driving global warming.  And that’s why Texas, the Alone Star state, is going to a second court with the same flimsy tale of woe that left the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington unconvinced earlier this month. 

EPA’s first steps to start reducing carbon pollution from the biggest new power plants and factories are scheduled to begin on January 2nd.  So this is the last best time to claim the world is coming to an end.  Because after New Year’s Day, it will be clear for all to see that the sun is still coming up each morning, that the juice is still flowing from our power plants, and that businesses big and small are still able to build new factories and create new jobs.

We’ve seen this movie, and we know how it ends.  Over and over, doomsayers have claimed the Clean Air Act is about to kill the economy.  But from 40 years of progress, we know we can have both cleaner air and a strong, growing economy with more good jobs.  And we know that the benefits of the Clean Air Act exceed the costs by as much as 40-to-1.

Earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims by Texas and industry trade associations that EPA’s modest requirements will block construction of new plants and strangle the economic recovery. 

Remember, when you make claims like that in court, you have to prove them.  But here’s what the court said on December 10th

With regard to each of the challenged rules, petitioners have not shown that the harms they allege are certain, rather than speculative, or that the alleged harms will directly result from the actions which the movants seek to enjoin.

In fact, except in Texas, big new or expanded facilities will be able to get permits with “best available control technology” pollution limits for greenhouse gases in a timely way in every state, acting either on its own or with EPA’s assistance.  Just as they are for other pollutants, those “BACT” emission limits will be bounded by what is technically and economically practical, and will reflect available and affordable control measures to limit increases in heat-trapping pollutants.

Texas’ problems are of the state’s own making.  The State’s highest elected leaders are grandstanding to Tea Party types about supposedly unconstitutional federal intrusions into the sovereignty of Texas.  Meanwhile, they’re hanging Texan companies out to dry.  They’ve refused to change their own regulations to enable the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to issue permits for carbon emissions to companies wanting to build big new and expanded facilities.  And they’ve refused to cooperate with EPA, which is offering a back-up way to issue those permits until the State gets its act together. 

Every other state has taken one of the available paths to keep new construction projects going unimpeded.  Texas alone has refused.  Instead, last week the governor and the attorney general went to a second court – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans – with the same request to “stay” EPA’s actions that was rejected by the Court of Appeals in Washington.

The fact is that if there’s a “construction moratorium” in Texas in January, it will be the fault of the governor and the attorney general, not EPA.

Texas' latest lawsuit is almost certain to be thrown out, because you don't get to go shopping with the same arguments in a second court when you lose in the first.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the industry lobbyists were pulling out all the stops to convince the Senate that the world is coming to an end in January.  In a fact-free, over-the-top two-page letter, the Chamber of Commerce and a hodgepodge of trade associations charged that EPA’s greenhouse gas measures will cause “a virtual freeze on new construction of manufacturing facilities or energy efficiency modifications to existing facilities.”   The Industrial Energy Consumers of America chimed in to claim that the rules “are detrimental to private sector investment, economic growth and job creation and will delay US economic recovery” and will “encourage[] companies to invest abroad rather than in the US.”

Senate efforts to block EPA’s greenhouse gas measures fell apart late last week, but we know we’ll see plenty of attacks on EPA and the Clean Air Act in the next Congress.  By then, however, we’ll have real-world proof that the first steps to curb carbon pollution did not stop the construction of new facilities, big or small.    

The doomsayers are trying so hard now because they know that the world will not come to end next year.  If Congress just let’s EPA do its job, everything is going to be all right.