The Billings Outpost

Montana has stake in EPA rules

COMMENTARY

By KIRK BUSHMAN

Earlier this September, 53 U.S. senators — Republicans and Democrats — signed on to an appeal to the White House to extend the comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas regulation. 

Montana’s senators, Jon Tester and John Walsh, are noticeably absent from the bipartisan list.

That’s regrettable. No state has more at stake on these greenhouse gas rules than Montana. We have the largest coal deposits in the country by far. We have a booming oil and gas industry in the Bakken driving our job growth.

The energy produced in Montana is distributed throughout the country and around the world. Montana’s vast energy reserves represent by far our brightest opportunity for job growth and economic revitalization.

But the opportunity we have for that job creation could be killed in the cradle as a result of these hastily constructed, ill-advised EPA greenhouse gas regulations.

The potential for job destruction is the primary reason so many senators from both political parties are urging the White House to allow more time for comments on this rule.

It’s notable these rules were constructed without congressional approval.  The EPA and the White House would be wise to take the advice of a majority of senators to slow down this process and allow Americans to fully digest the pros and cons. We all know that rushing things can only lead to bad outcomes.

Truly, we’ve seen nothing like this type of rule before. The EPA has issued many rules over the years, but they typically follow a pattern: identify a pollutant, set a standard for emissions and work with individual companies to bring emissions down to a level that meets the standard.

This greenhouse gas rule looks nothing like that; this is a totally uncharted approach.

Instead, states will be given an overall emissions target. So far, it’s largely unclear how states will do this. At recent congressional hearings on the rule, utility experts from around the country testified to problems that must be addressed, revealing significant concerns with energy prices and delivery.

The EPA greenhouse gas rule is designed by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats.  It’s a system perfectly designed for government insiders to pick winners and losers, enrich their friends and punish their enemies, and leave consumers to pay the price.

The other thing that makes this rule completely different from how EPA rules are typically enacted is its scope. This rule will affect every corner of the American economy, from manufacturing, agriculture and other energy-intensive industries to the prices consumers pay for everyday products like food, gasoline, and electricity.

The EPA greenhouse gas role is so pervasive and broad it will literally affect every aspect of American life.

So far, most of us, including members of Congress, have been left out of the rule-making process. The EPA has given only a brief time for people to read the hundreds of pages of this rule, digest its scope and effect, and construct a meaningful comment. With something this big, we deserve a measured approach.

It’s not too late for Montana’s senators to weigh in. They can still join with the majority of their colleagues, the majority of Montanans, and the majority of Americans in encouraging the White House to take a balanced approach between emissions reduction and energy affordability.

But beyond that, we need our Montana elected officials to start doing everything they can to protect Montana’s jobs.

C’mon, Sens. Walsh and Tester — show some leadership on this issue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The deadline for commenting on the rules is Dec. 1.

Commissioner Kirk Bushman represents Public Service Commission District 2 in southeastern Montana. He lives in Billings.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 November 2014 11:10

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