Energy Blog

Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Thomas J. Donohue

In its final 18 months in power, the Obama administration aims to implement its environmental agenda in a one-two knockout punch by the Environmental Protection Agency. And just who will bear the brunt of EPA's new rules? American consumers, companies, and states--along with the national economy.

First up is the proposed ozone standard. It would impose more stringent ozone standards on businesses--despite the fact that ozone levels have fallen dramatically, industry is still working to implement the current standard, and technologies do not yet exist to meet the new standard. According to a study by National Economic Research Associates, the rule could reduce GDP by $140 billion a year, cost $1.1 trillion in compliance, and result in 1.4 million fewer jobs over the next 25 years.

In addition to being the most expensive regulation ever issued by the federal government, the proposed ozone standard could give bureaucrats unprecedented control over communities. It would plunge the majority of the country into what EPA calls "nonattainment," meaning that communities would face enormous regulatory hurdles every time they wanted to build something, and they could even suffer from the withholding of federal transportation funding for highway and public transit projects. The rule could bring local economic development and transportation planning to a grinding halt across the nation.

And then there's the so-called Clean Power Plan--EPA's attempt to restructure the U.S. electricity system under the guise of restricting greenhouse gas emissions from domestic power plants. The new standards would drive up electricity costs for businesses and consumers, impose tens of billions in annual compliance costs, and reduce our nation's global competitiveness. And EPA's rule is unlikely to reduce global carbon emissions, instead simply shifting them--and U.S. jobs--to other countries that have not implemented similar restrictions.

What will it take to rein in an agency hell-bent on pushing past the outer limits of its authority? The Supreme Court has reprimanded the EPA twice in as many years for overstepping its bounds. And even though these latest rules are likely to be mired in years of litigation, the White House is pressing ahead, hoping they will take effect anyway.

It is up to the business community, along with partners in industry and at the state and local levels, to show that these rules are not about one president's quest for a legacy. They are about the fundamental economic future of America. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will use every tool in its arsenal--including litigation if necessary--to improve, suspend, or roll back these regulatory power grabs that hamper economic freedom and hamstring American competitiveness.

U.S. Chamber Staff Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, discusses the "Grinding to a Halt" report in Las Vegas.

The list of cities grows. The U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy released a new report Tuesday detailing how a proposed new regulation from the Obama administration could delay or cancel key new transportation projects in the Las Vegas region.

Grinding to A Halt takes a detailed look at the challenges Las Vegas will face in meeting EPA's proposal to tighten ozone standards to 65-70 parts per billion, and the projects that could be delayed if the region fails to comply. An earlier report from the Institute looked at implications for the Washington, D.C. metro area.

"EPA's proposed new ozone standards are so strict that even pristine national parks like the Great Basin and the Grand Canyon won't be able to comply," said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy. "Las Vegas area commuters already face some of the toughest traffic in the nation, and now key projects intended to help like Project Neon, the CC-215 Las Vegas Beltway widening, and implementation of bus rapid transit are all being threatened by unreasonable standards that the region will have extreme difficulty meeting."

For states looking to rebuild their infrastructure, waiting for Congress to find a long-term funding plan may be the least of their problems. Because waiting in the wings is EPA's ozone regulation.

Even though ozone levels have been declining for decades, the Obama administration wants to reduce ozone levels to between 65 and 70 parts per billion (ppb). Three hundred thirty-one counties will not be able to meet the stricter ozone standard. They will face mountains of red tape or worse. Because under the Clean Air Act, EPA is able to withhold federal transportation funds to counties not in attainment.