Andrew Wheeler: EPA offers regulatory certainty

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler

A cornerstone of President Trump’s agenda since taking office has been to promote domestic energy production, create jobs, and further economic growth. He directed Federal agencies through Executive Order (EO) 13873 to review, replace, or repeal burdensome and outdated regulations that stand in the way of these objectives.

Pursuant to EO 13873, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) undertook a review of the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Many feel the CPP greatly exceeded the agency’s authority, which is why 150 entities, including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and three labor unions challenged the rule. A bipartisan majority of the U.S. Congress declared that the CPP was on shaky legal ground and formally disapproved of the CPP. In fact, the Supreme Court issued an historic stay of the rule before it went into effect — an unprecedented intervention by the nation’s highest court.

Aside from expressed legal concerns, the plan’s punitive demands on energy providers would have unnecessarily raised electricity prices, decreased the competitiveness of America’s manufacturers, cost Americans valuable jobs, and undermined the nation’s energy security. For example, independent economic analysis by the National Economic Research Associates found that CPP could have caused double-digit electricity price increases in 40 states.

Unfortunately, low and middle-income Americans, a great number of which are minorities and senior citizens, would have borne the brunt of this burden. According to a 2015 analysis of energy price impacts, middle-income Americans spend nearly 20 percent of their after-tax income on residential and transportation energy. Low-income Americans spend more than 20 percent.

Thankfully, President Trump and his administration have a plan that respects the rule of law, promotes energy independence, and supports economic growth and job creation. EPA’s new proposal, the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE), would restore the states’ proper role under the Clean Air Act and our federalist system. Under our plan, states will be the ones to establish standards of performance for existing sources in line with EPA’s emissions guidelines. Unlike the CPP, the ACE rule would not interfere with states as they construct diverse, reliable energy portfolios that can provide affordable energy to fuel the administration’s historic economic growth.

Another element of ACE would update EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) permitting program. Previously, NSR regularly discouraged companies from employing the latest energy-efficient equipment. Going forward, we want to encourage investments in the most innovative power plant technologies. Our NSR updates would remove regulatory barriers and further incentivize our nation’s power plants to upgrade their facilities in an environmentally beneficial way. These NSR proposals would also protect states against increased permitting burdens and wasteful compliance costs so they can focus on improving environmental outcomes instead of bureaucratic red tape.

EPA takes its Clean Air Act responsibilities seriously and is committed to providing certainty to our state and industry partners. We will not use our authority to pick winners and losers in the energy marketplace. Rather, our proposal fits squarely within the four corners of the Clean Air Act, allowing states to make energy decisions based on what works best for them rather than what the federal government tells them to do. The era of top-down, one-size-fits-all federal mandates is over.

Our rule would also ensure America remains the gold standard for energy production and environmental protection. From 2005 to 2017, total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 14 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration. In contrast, global energy-related CO2 emissions increased over 20 percent.

Additionally, since 1970, total emissions of the six criteria air pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide) regulated under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards established through the Clean Air Act have dropped 73 percent, while the economy grew over 260 percent.

In other words, the U.S. is achieving energy dominance while reducing energy-related carbon emissions and improving air quality and public health. No other nation in the world can claim likewise.

We can continue to improve on these trends through American innovation and cooperation between the states and federal government.

Many feel the CPP would have stunted this progress through regulatory overreach. It threatened energy security and prosperity for a negligible impact on the climate by the year 2100. Under the ACE rule, carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector will continue to fall.

Reliable and affordable energy is the foundation of America’s strength. Without it, our prosperity and security could fall lie outside our own control. President Trump understands this and has prudently put America on a path to true energy independence. His administration is repealing unnecessary barriers to energy development at an unrivaled pace. And now EPA is acting to provide the states and energy sector the regulatory certainty they need to continue our environmental progress and provide modern, reliable energy that all Americans can afford.

Andrew Wheeler is Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.