Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions wants to allow Big Business to pee in our cisterns for a little longer, just until the economy recovers.

He began a Op-ed  this weekend opposing public health rules:

A storm cloud over the economy briefly lifted this month when President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its proposal to tighten the nation’s ozone standards.

I hate to tell him that like the smog cloud over Birmingham, this supposed “storm cloud over the economy” was created by his Big Business cronies. “Today’s forecasts of economic doom are nearly identical — almost word for word — to the doomsday predictions of the last 40 years,” EPA chief Lisa Jackson said in a September speech. “This ‘broken record’ continues despite the fact that history has proven the doomsayers wrong again and again.”

To begin his argument, Sen. Sessions actually tries to downplay the danger of high-ozone levels in his op-ed. When reading his argument, remember that Birmingham, out of 277 metro areas natiowide, has the 21st highest ozone levels. So he may be right; Alabama metro regions may be in “non-attainment” and for good reason.

Despite that fact. he says:

Ozone is a naturally occurring gas.

It is also associated with emissions from cars, factories, and power plants, and as each summer reminds us, ozone concentrations are highest on hot days.

As a result of EPA tightening the standards significantly in 2008, allowable ozone concentrations are 40 percent lower now than in the 1970s.

He, at least,  acknowledges here the effectiveness of the EPA and the Clean Air Act, unlike Rep. Mike Rogers, over the years.  However, while “ozone is a naturally occurring gas”, he fails to mention that 40% of unhealthy ozone in Alabama comes from out-dated coal-burning power plants.

He also failed to mention the numerous studies which confirm the numbers of lives saved by reducing unhealthy ozone levels.  For instance, “in 2008 a committee of the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, reviewed the evidence again and concluded that ‘short-term exposure to ambient ozone is likely to contribute to premature deaths.‘ They recommended that preventing early death be included in any future estimates of the benefits of reducing ozone.”

Sen. Sessions does not include such life-saving in his calculus. According to the EPA’s own analysis, the smog standards Sessions now opposes could save over 12,000 lives from heart attacks, lung disease and asthma attacks by implementing the new standards. He fails to consider such despite that Justice Antonin Scalia – one of the court’s most conservative members – himself wrote in a unanimous opinion that the Clean Air Act “unambiguously bars cost considerations from the NAAQS-setting process and thus ends the matter for us as well as the EPA.”

No, he only considers what his industry-masters have told him.  Instead of relying upon the Congress’s own findings, he cites a report from Manufacture Alliance, an industry front group. That report has been utterly discredited:

The methodology used in this report is invalid; no economist worth his or her salt would stand by it. Rather than providing rigorous economic analysis to help improve public policy decisions, MAPI’s sole objective in issuing this report was to generate scary cost estimates and undermine measures to improve public health.

Instead of relying upon such a biased report, he could have read what Congress’ own research had produced. A recent report from the US Congress’s Congressional Research Service debunks some of the Session’s and the  industry scare-tactics over proposed public-health laws.

Seems these days, there are a zillion Big Business leaders, their puppets in Congress and legions of corporate cheerleaders crying wolf over the regulations that keep you, me and our fellow countrymen safe from unchecked corporate greed. The latest example of this is a study by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the largest trade association representing the electric utility industry, which concluded that the looming Environmental Protection Agency rules for power plants will create an economic “train wreck.”

Not surprisingly, this prophecy of doom and gloom has been found to be completely overblown, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

CRS analyzed EEI’s study and found it was severely flawed and lacked credibility. The discredited EEI study is just another example of the disconnect between the alarmist rhetoric coming from special interests and reality.

Here are the main points of the CRS report:

1. “The primary impacts of many of the rules will largely be on coal-fired plants more than 40 years old that have not, until now, installed state-of-the-art pollution controls…Many of these plants are inefficient and are being replaced by more efficient combined cycle natural gas plants, a development likely to be encouraged if the price of competing fuel—natural gas—continues to be low, almost regardless of EPA rules.”

2. The EEI study was done before most of the EPA rules were even proposed, and it assumed that the rules would be more stringent, with shorter compliance deadlines, than the ones that EPA has actually proposed. Therefore, the EEI study great exaggerates the impact of the EPA rules.

3. The EEI study completely ignores the benefits of the EPA rules. According to the CRS report, “The costs of the rules may be large, but, in most cases, the benefits are larger, especially estimated public health benefits.”

Recently, American Electric Power’s chairman admitted to shareholders that he was not worried about the new EPA rules. His public statements have been dramatically different, stoking fears about the disastrous impact the EPA rules will have on the economy:

“Because of the unrealistic compliance timelines in the EPA proposals, we will have to prematurely shut down nearly 25 percent of our current coal-fueled generating capacity, cut hundreds of good power-plant jobs, and invest billions of dollars in capital to retire, retrofit, and replace coal-fueled power plants,” AEP Chairman and CEO Mike Morris said in a statement last week. “The sudden increase in electricity rates and impacts on state economies will be significant at a time when people and states are still struggling.”

A week earlier, Morris had sought to allay investors’ concerns about the plant closures and their effect on AEP’s bottom line at a June 1 investor’s conference.
“On balance, we think that is the appropriate way to go,” Morris said of the closures. “Not only to treat our customers, but also to treat our shareholders, near and long term, with that small amount of the fleet going off-line.”

He not only includes biased reports but Sessions actually misrepresents history these rules though. He wrote:

As a result of EPA tightening the standards significantly in 2008, allowable ozone concentrations are 40 percent lower now than in the 1970s.

Nonetheless, in early 2010, EPA unilaterally announced plans to lower the standard, again, this time by an additional 20 percent. This was a voluntary decision that was not ordered by the courts or mandated by law.

What actually happened:

The currently applicable standard of 84 parts per billion (ppb) was promulgated in 1997. When the George W. Bush administration finally got around to revising the standard in 2008, it proposed a standard of 75 ppb, which was less stringent than the 60-70 ppb range that CASAC had recommended. In an extraordinary act of resistance, CASAC told the EPA administrator that the proposed standard was not supported by the scientific evidence. Not surprisingly, environmental groups challenged the Bush administration standard in court. As mentioned above, they put their lawsuit on hold to give EPA time to write a more stringent standard.

Soon after president Obama was inaugurated, Jackson struck a deal with the environmental organizations, under which EPA withdrew the Bush administration standard and promised to propose a new (and presumably more stringent) standard by August 2010. The agreement effectively left the outdated 1997 standard in place, because EPA told the states not to worry about implementing the withdrawn standard.

EPA missed the August 2010 deadline. Out of an abundance of caution, Jackson asked CASAC to review the scientific information one more time. CASAC did so and once again recommended a standard in the 60-70 ppb range. In January of this year, Jackson said that EPA would propose a standard in that range. The agency then completed its proposal and sent it to the White House Office of Management and Budget in July, where it languished until last Friday.

If Jackson now reneges on her agreement with the environmental organizations and puts the ozone standard on the back burner until 2013 or later, Americans living in cities — where ozone pollution is at its worst — will be left in worse shape than they would have been had the inadequate Bush administration standard gone into effect.

Nevertheless, Sessions conclude his argument with:

For the sake of economic growth and job creation, I believe Congress should enact legislation authorizing the president to delay or forego major new rules in light of significant economic concerns, at least until unemployment rates finally fall to historic average levels.

Does anyone believe Sessions will agree to the scientific evidence later.

In the words of Christian apologist and missionary Francis Schaeffer:

These are the two factors that lead to the destruction of our environment: money and time – – or to say it another way: greed and haste. The question is, or seems to be, are we going to have an immediate profit and an immediate saving of time, or are we going to do what we really should do as God’s children.

. .  .What we, the Christian community, have to do is refuse them the right to ravish our land, just as we refuse them the right to ravish our women; to insist that somebody accept a little less profit by not exploiting nature.

We need to push back against the rhetoric of Representatives Sessions, Rogers and Roby. After all, even that “communist-rag” Forbes magazine has declared it is time to replace Eisenhower-Era Power plants:

Once again opponents are voicing the same tired argument that power companies need a lot more time to comply, even though they’ve known the rule was coming for more than a decade. Some—like American Electric Power—are pulling out all stops to delay the rule, which they say will destroy jobs, raise energy prices and slow economic growth.

That’s nonsense. Studies show the EPA rule is technologically feasible, provides clear economic benefits and offers power companies an opportunity to modernize their aging fleets.

The power plants most endangered by these air pollution rules are the nation’s smallest, dirtiest, least-efficient plants. Most are more than 50 years old.  Continuing to rely on these plants while giving the pollutants they belch a free ride is like driving around in that Model T Ford. Why accept such antiquated technology in the 21st century?  The time to modernize the nation’s generating fleet is now.

While the Senator Sessions, Congressman Rogers and their fellow industry-cheerleaders proclaim that the proposed rules kill-jobs,  just the opposite is true. The new rules will actually spur new jobs and economic activity.

These companies can attest that complying with the air quality rules yields potential economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability of our electric system.

Studies back them up.

A recent report by the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute found significant job creation benefits from both the air toxics and cross-state rules, with an especially large boost—nearly 300,000 jobs annually nationwide over the next five years—as Eisenhower-era power plants are replaced with cleaner, more-efficient capacity.

Pipefitters, engineers, boilermakers, construction workers and others will be needed to build new, clean power plants and install pollution control devices on others.

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