Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gary Palmer and Cameron Smith: Coal-fired Alabama on EPA's "most wanted" list

  As if an economy struggling to recover were not enough, Alabamians are truly starting to feel the financial pinch of trips to the gas pump and higher monthly electric bills. The cost increases impact more than just travel and utility bills; they are built into virtually every item made or transported in the United States. From groceries to clothes, kitchen table discussions about budgets are becoming more difficult for families across Alabama.

  To make matters worse, the federal government is adding to the mounting fiscal burden. Taxpayers face an army of federal bureaucrats tasked with regulatory development and oversight – more than 270,000 of them at the end of 2010.  Each regulatory employee enforces specific regulations published in the Federal Register. The register has grown by more than 3,000% since 1936, from 2,620 pages of regulations to more than 80,000 at the end of 2011.

  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of the most aggressive regulatory entities, developing layer upon layer of rules that place economic burdens not only on businesses but on anyone using energy – especially the 27 million lower-income households in America who dedicated 23% of their 2011 after-tax income to energy costs. This is more than twice the national average of 11% of after-tax income.

  In a study released April 23, 2012, researchers with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) offer state-by-state impacts of what they describe as the EPA’s regulatory train wreck.

  According to the study by ALEC, Alabama is on the EPA’s 10 “most wanted” list.

  Alabama derives 41% of the state’s electricity from coal, an energy source the Obama Administration and the EPA despise. Through a variety of exceedingly expensive and overreaching regulations, the EPA has placed a specific target on states that rely on coal for affordable and reliable energy. With the failures of cap-and-trade and carbon taxes, the environmental lobby has focused its efforts on eliminating coal-generated electricity through EPA’s regulatory power.

  Through one rule alone – the Utility Maximum Available Control Technology (Utility MACT) Rule – the EPA would require retrofits for up to 753 coal-fired electrical generation units and affect the price and reliability of electricity for approximately 15 million American households.

  Utility MACT would cost taxpayers an estimated $11 billion per year to enact and enforce. The direct benefits of the rule are estimated by the EPA to range from $500,000 to $6 million. In other words, the cost to taxpayers outweighs the benefits by roughly 1,800 to one, even by the EPA’s most favorable estimates.

  Despite the successes in environmental quality improvement in the U.S. since the early 90s, the EPA has promulgated more regulations in the first two years of the Obama Administration than it did during the entire first term of the Clinton Administration.

  Congress must act to gain control of and take responsibility for executive agencies that are over-regulating America’s economic engine, placing barriers between businesses and success and, consequently, driving up the cost of living in America. Otherwise, politicians may find themselves unable to restart an engine they allowed to stall.

  About the authors: Gary Palmer and Cameron Smith are with theAlabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

  This article was published by the Alabama Policy Institute.

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