(Gary Baise is a national respected environmental attorney who lives here in Virginia and writes on issues that can impact on Virginia’s economy.)
The election is over, and EPA is going to feast on many industries including farm tillage and livestock operations. A U.S. Senate report from the minority staff on the Environment and Public Works Committee paints a depressing and costly future for the United States and its agricultural sector. The report published in October, 2012, is frightening!
The Washington Post, on May 3, 2012, published an editorial entitled “The EPA is earning a reputation for abuse.” The Post was commenting on the agency’s abuse of power and used a recent news story about a top EPA administrator who claimed EPA’s general philosophy of enforcement is to “hit them as hard as you can, make examples of them, and go aggressively after them.”
The Senate report quotes several administration officials saying incredibly dangerous and, in fact, questionable assertions. The Secretary of Energy has said “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Secretary of Energy Chu has never retracted this statement to my knowledge. Having just recently been in Europe, I paid between $8-9 per gallon!
The Report suggests the re-elected Obama administration will use EPA to continue its war on fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. We are going to see a war on affordable energy which is already happening in California with its $5.00 a gallon gasoline. A member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors has declared “The Administration believes that it is no longer sufficient to address our nation’s energy needs by finding more fossil fuels.” (The Keystone Pipeline is a perfect example of helping to drive up fuel costs.)
The Senate report sets forth numerous examples of new, upcoming regulations which have the purpose of shutting down coal fired power plants and attempting to regulate the natural gas industry out of business. Fracking, which has opened up enormous energy reserves, is under attack. An Obama administration nominee has said that hydraulic fracturing “…has a nasty track record of creating a toxic chemical soup that pollutes groundwater and streams…”
Another Obama appointee has described fossil fuels as “fuels of death.” He said “We pull out of the ground death. We burn death in our power plants.”
It is almost a certainty that fossil fuels will increase in cost due to new EPA regulations. The Senate report indicates that the Clean Air Act (CAA) will increase fuel costs for churches, schools, restaurants, hospitals and, yes, farms.
The report estimates over 37,000 farming and ranching operations will be subject to new greenhouse gas permits and such permits will cover over 90% of livestock production in the United States. The report is not specific, but I presume the authors believe that EPA will seek to regulate methane and N2O from livestock and fertilizer operations.
The notorious farm dust regulations apparently will be resurrected. I have written about the problems with farm dust control in Maricopa County, Arizona. The report states farmers may need to curb everyday farm activities “which could mean cutting down on the numbers of livestock or tilling of fields, or they may have to shrink or even end their businesses altogether.”
EPA will launch additional efforts to set limits on nutrients in runoff coming from farms and ranches. EPA has already been successful in setting federal limits for nutrient runoff in Florida. Florida has developed specific nutrient numeric standards for its waters on June 13, 2012. EPA is still considering Florida’s proposal.
EPA and farm organizations are battling over numeric nutrient standards in the Mid-Atlantic states. This battle is coming to the Midwest. In fact, a lawsuit has been filed by environmental groups in Louisiana to force EPA to set federal limits on nutrient runoff from our farms and ranches.
In April, 2011, EPA proposed guidance on how to expand federal control over virtually every body of water in the United States. The proposal generated an enormous backlash not only from farm organizations but from states and municipalities. This guidance has been deliberately delayed, according to some publications, until after the election.
If gasoline prices were not high enough already, the Senate report claims EPA seeks to drive up our gasoline prices even more. A proposed rule called Tier III Gas Regulations will reduce the amount of sulphur in our gasoline from 30 ppm to 10 ppm. It is believed this rule alone will cost over $10 billion initially, $2.4 billion annually and may add $.09 per gallon at the pump.
Mr. Obama and his administration certainly plan on change occurring at EPA!
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