By SUSAN BLOWER
WASHINGTON D.C. — A stream of new environmental regulations is expected in 2013, affecting agriculture, coal plants, businesses and the average energy consumer, according to both proponents and opponents of the agenda.
Highlighted last week by the ranking leader of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the federal regulations will likely cover greenhouse gas, ozone, hydraulic fracturing, nutrients in water, sulfur in gasoline, coal ash, farm dust, oil and gas spills on farms and ranches, and others.
The economic impact of these regulations and the toll on the number of jobs as some coal plants and businesses close will likely be greater than that of the U.S. national debt, said Inhofe in an interview with Fox News last week. Inhofe wrote the Senate report on the upcoming regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies.
The likelihood that these regulations will go into effect is not in dispute, according to many newspapers and government officials. Some of these have stated that President Barack Obama and the EPA are waiting to enact until after the election next week because of the economic impact and controversial nature of these regulations.
A small sampling of these statements includes:
“Nonetheless, it’s almost certain that if he does win a second term, the president would continue to use EPA to lower the nation’s carbon pollution, and the agency would probably act even more aggressively than it already has.” (“Obama’s Climate-Change Silence” in National Journal, Oct. 18)
The article continued, “EPA would be expected to put out a second round of rules, this time limiting pollution from existing (coal-powered) plants. Those regulations would have a major real-world economic and environment impact, forcing some coal plants to invest in expensive new technology to cut pollution, and they could even force companies to shut down some plants.
“But given the importance of coal mining and coal-powered electricity in the crucial 2012 swing states of Colorado, Ohio and Virginia, it’s not surprising that neither the White House nor the EPA has offered details about the agency’s next round of climate rules.”
The lack of details in Obama’s plan bothers not only his environmental base of supporters but also his political opponents. Inhofe has sent a letter to the White House to complain about the lack of a published regulatory agenda in 2012 that is required by law every six months. The lack of information creates uncertainty for business and local communities, Inhofe said.
Moreover, farmers will likely deal with new regulations by various federal agencies, under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Expanded federal control over nutrients in water, waterways such as ditches and canals, potential oil spills on farmland and greenhouse gas created by farm animals translates into added regulations of farms and ranches of all sizes.
“I grew up on a farm in Alabama. I’m of the opinion that we can manage our environment to get the best outcomes. The (current thinking in Washington) is that we’ve got to protect the environment from people, versus protecting it for people,” said Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations for American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
If the EPA is able to accomplish its agenda in 2013, the use of farmland and other local land would be subject to federal regulation, especially under the EPA’s new water guidance document, Parrish said.
“A lot of things would come under the control of the EPA, such as whether a tractor can pull or plow through a ditch, a farmer can plant soybeans or corn over it or a new power line or road be built through it,” he said. “Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA is picking winners and losers to advance different energy sources.”
The result of increased expense and difficulty in transporting or growing food will be higher food costs, which would hurt lower-income people in the United States, as well as the rest of the world, Parrish said.
Environmental proponents, however, believe their agenda is too important to stave off indefinitely.
“After essentially ignoring the issue all year, President Obama has finally begun to explicitly address the dangers of fossil-fuel emissions warming the atmosphere, a phenomenon that an overwhelming majority of scientists agree will have grave consequences – some of which are already evident in the form of extreme droughts, increased flooding and more devastating storms,” read an analysis written on Oct. 18, 2012, in the National Journal.
The article went on to quote Obama: “And, by the way, my plan will reduce climate pollution that’s heating our planet. Because climate change is not a hoax ... it’s a threat to our children’s future.”
For a summary of upcoming EPA regulations, see sidebar article on page 10.