Government Bytes


McConnell Keeps Heat on EPA Over Regulatory Abuses

by Brandon Greife / /

Fixing our unsustainable spending trajectory is priority one, two, and three for conservatives in Congress. And for good reason. Like the tornadoes that have plagued much of the Great Plains recently, a debt crisis threatens to hit hard and fast; but has at least granted us enough forewarning to seek shelter.

But while the debt winds continue to whip into a frenzy, we can’t ignore another potential economic disaster – the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) regulatory overreach. It may lack the rhetorical punch of the debt limit debate, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is working hard to ensure that the EPA’s backdoor energy tax and costly green energy agenda doesn’t fall out of the spotlight.

Last summer, Senate Democrats attempted to pass a massive new energy tax under the guise of a “market-based” method of curbing greenhouse gas emission. Fortunately, legislators saw the so-called "cap-and-trade" scheme for what it was - a massive tax hike - and the bill died in the Senate.

Despite the bill’s failure, President Obama warned, “Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way.” His ominous foreshadowing has proved to be true. The EPA has taken up where Senate Democrats left off, substituting their self-proclaimed prerogative to regulate greenhouse gases for the will of Congress, and the citizens who elected them.

In his speech on Wednesday to the Kentucky Coal Association, Leader McConnell described the impact the EPA’s plan would have,

“Their national energy tax would hit you every time you start your car or turn on the light bulb. It would endanger millions of jobs across the country and hurt an already fragile economy. And it directly targets Kentucky’s coal industry, by making coal-fired power more expensive.”

McConnell and others have attempted to pass legislation that would prevent the EPA from going around the legislative process. Many Democrats have also realized that Congress, not administrative bodies should be the ones taking action. In voting for a bill to temporarily block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, Jim Webb (D-VA) has said, “I do not believe that Congress should cede its authority over an issue as important as climate change to unelected officials of the Executive Branch.”

The rebuke hasn’t stopped the EPA from overstepping its bounds. In his speech, McConnell described a similar situation happening with coal,

“The EPA retroactively “reinterpreted” its regulations and withdrew a Section 404 permit previously issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to a mine in southern West Virginia, shutting it down and throwing 90 miners out of work. Every mine in Kentucky is similarly threatened.

“The EPA declared even more permit applications to be under enhanced review, in effect playing a “run out the clock” game and putting many Kentucky mining operations in limbo, along with the economic activity mining could create.

By changing the rules in the middle of the game, any sense of regulatory certainty has been thrown out the window, and all without a single vote or hearing in Congress. In response, McConnell has proposed legislation that would set a 30 day timeline for the EPA to rule on a permit received from a mine. The EPA’s authority to reject the permit based on health and environmental concerns would be left intact, but the veil of regulatory uncertainty would finally be lifted.

Time and again, job creators and business owners have been begging Washington to remove the uncertainty that is preventing them from investing and hiring. While the debt limit negotiations are hogging the spotlight, it is good to see a high profile Senator like Mitch McConnell making sure that no stone is left unturned in the search for ways to boost job growth. And one of those ways is reigning in an out of control EPA.