Bond: End the Energy Two-Step, Rein In Regulators

Posted April 22, 2012 at 9:32am

As gas prices across the nation hit mile-high levels, Americans are rightfully angry about the long trail of broken promises by politicians.

For decades, politicians on both sides of the aisle have stumped for a common-sense national energy policy that moves our country toward energy independence. Yet, years later, America remains reliant on foreign despots for our energy needs.

By pledging support for an “all of the above” energy strategy while bureaucrats in his agencies thwart domestic expansion — such as the Keystone XL pipeline — President Barack Obama is just the latest perpetrator of this energy two-step.

There are a number of agencies in Washington that have gone overboard with regulation writing aimed at energy, but the worst actor is the Environmental Protection Agency. At my last count, the EPA has almost 30 major regulations and more than 170 major policy rules in the works.

The latest shot from the EPA occurred at the end of last month, when the administration unveiled its new greenhouse gas rule. The new rule would, in effect, prevent coal-fired plants from being built because the technology required to capture and store carbon dioxide underground is not yet commercially available.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest of the EPA’s swath of regulations aimed at the heart of our energy future, which will increase families’ energy costs — forcing them to choose between paying their air-conditioning bill and saving for their kids’ college or investing in their retirement.

These regulations will force states to choose between supplying low-cost energy for families, farmers and businesses or complying with federal rules. And these regulations will force businesses to choose between employing American workers or relocating to lower energy-cost countries.

While the EPA has gone off the rails with regulation writing, all regulation is not bad. The government should step in and regulate to protect Americans from abusive practices and to keep our communities safe and healthy.

For example, when serving in the Senate, I worked with the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) to achieve the Acid-Rain Trading Compromise and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. This was no easy feat — debate lasted five weeks, and the Senate considered 180 amendments. But the landmark compromise worked because Congress recognized the complexity of the problem — providing almost a decade to implement the acid rain rules, bringing all of the stakeholders to the table and getting a buy-in from affected businesses and the American people.

Right now, the only bipartisan consensus is that the EPA’s go-it-alone approach is the wrong one. Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of 221 Members of the House signed a letter to the White House urging the administration to block the costly greenhouse gas rule.

Led by Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the lawmakers asked the White House to stop this latest power grab by the EPA because of the “devastating impact it will have on jobs and the economy.” I couldn’t agree more.

This approach by EPA bureaucrats to circumvent Congressional authority and overregulate is not good for families struggling to pay bills, for businesses that need to create jobs, for our limping economy or even for the environment — as the largest polluting countries, such as China and India, won’t be imposing similar regulations.

Just last month, the EPA’s overreach and power grab was recognized by the court system. Two major court rulings slammed the EPA’s water agency for regulatory overreach. I could not have said it better than one federal district court judge who said the EPA resorted to “magical thinking” to grant itself broad new authority.

It is essential that elected representatives listen to the American people who no longer want unelected bureaucrats such as those at the EPA imposing onerous new regulations that block or reduce the production of domestic energy sources.

Instead, policymakers and bureaucrats need to make it easier to tap into traditional energy sources in an environmentally responsible way — coal mining, hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, offshore drilling and state-of-the-art nuclear plants — and to invest in clean energy sources for the future.

Kit Bond is a former Republican Senator from Missouri and founder of Kit Bond Strategies.