Air, Water Rules Threaten Sovereignty, State Officials Tell House Subcommittee

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By Andrew Childers

Feb. 26 — The Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act rules infringe on state sovereignty and would impose significant economic burdens on farmers and industries, states told a House subcommittee Feb. 26.

The proposed Clean Power Plan, stronger air quality standards for ozone and a water jurisdiction rule all interfere with the ability of states to manage their own resources and regulate their electricity generation sector, the attorneys general of Montana and Arkansas told the House Oversight and Government Reform Interior Subcommittee.

Economic analysts also argued that the EPA hides the true costs of compliance with its rules by adding in the health benefits of controlling pollutants that aren't directly regulated but will be reduced as a result of compliance with the regulations.

The EPA's proposed waters of the U.S. rule, which would clarify the reach of the Clean Water Act (79 Fed. Reg. 22,188), infringes on Montana's authority to manage its own natural resources, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox (R) said. States have already taken steps to preserve their waterways, he added.

“The people of Montana have taken steps to fully protect that priceless resource,” Fox said.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) said the water jurisdiction rule would cause significant uncertainty for farmers.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) agreed. “The waters of the U.S. rule still doesn’t provide the regulatory certainty that farmers, small businesses and homeowners need,” she said.

Power Plant Rule Called Illegal 

Rutledge argued that the EPA's Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33), which would regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, violates the text of the Clean Air Act.

Rutledge said the EPA can't regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act because power plants are already regulated under Section 112.

“This is a serious overreach of the EPA’s authority and different from the implementation of any other limits set under the Clean Air Act,” Rutledge said.

Apparently conflicting amendments to Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act were adopted in 1990. A House amendment would bar the EPA from regulating under Section 111(d) any industrial source category that is already regulated under Section 112, which would include power plants.

The Senate language would merely bar the EPA from regulating under Section 111(d) any pollutants that are already regulated under Section 112.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the full Oversight Committee, said he also is concerned that the EPA's rules impinge on states' authority.

“Time and time again the EPA has been in here talking about all of these problems with mismanagement and waste, and they want to go into states and tell people about their business,” he said.

Air Rules Impose High Costs 

Economic analysts said the EPA's proposed air rules would impose significant costs on the economy and could increase electricity costs for ratepayers.

David Harrison from NERA Economic Consulting said the EPA's Clean Power Plan could increase electricity rates in 44 states by an average of 10 percent annually during its 15-year compliance period.

“These two major environmental policies could have major economic impact on states and the nation as a whole,” he said of the Clean Power Plan and the EPA's proposal to set more stringent air quality standards for ozone.

In an August 2014 study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, NERA Economic Consulting estimated that revising the national ambient air quality standards for ozone from the current 75 parts per billion down to 60 ppb would cost $270 billion per year and force the closure of one-third of the nation's coal-fired power plants.

The EPA has proposed setting the ozone standard in a range between 60 ppb and 70 ppb, which was recommended by its science advisers.

EPA Critics ‘Scare Mongering.'

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) accused the EPA's critics of “scare mongering.”

“History tells us environmental regulations don’t cause an economic calamity,” she said.

NERA announced Feb. 25 that it has released an updated version of its report to reflect that proposal.

Sue Tierney, senior adviser to the Analysis Group, said accounting for the co-benefits of other pollutants that will be reduced as part of the EPA's proposed ozone standards is an important consideration when tallying the rules' health benefits.

“Economic impact analyses that fail to look at benefits to public health are inherently inconsistent with what the ozone standard is all about, which is public health,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at