The Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its statutory authority when it issued rules that would shut down many coal-fired electric utilities and industrial plants, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Aug. 21.
The EPA's rules are "without basis in the Clean Air Act or its implementing regulations," the court said. "Absent a claim of constitutional authority (and there is none here), executive agencies may exercise only the authority conferred by statute, and agencies may not transgress statutory limits on that authority."
Four days earlier, the appeals court threw out on technical grounds a suit brought chiefly by automakers against a new EPA rule which permits a mixture of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline. That much ethanol will cause serious damage to the engines of older cars, the automakers say.
The ethanol rule makes it clear the EPA is abusing its authority to advance a political agenda, because ethanol harms the environment. More energy is used to produce ethanol than it generates as a fuel. Because it takes 4.2 gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol from corn, ethanol production is a threat to water supplies. Besides ruining some engines, ethanol lowers gas mileage and puts more of the most toxic pollutants into the air.
Corn prices set a record high last week, thanks to the diversion of 40 percent of our corn crop to ethanol production, along with this summer's drought.
New EPA regulations on coal will raise the cost of generating electricity by $16 billion to $21 billion a year, and may "compromise" the reliability of the electric power grid, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
Until Thursday, the EPA had blocked Shell Oil from drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska. Gasoline prices set record highs this month, in part because new EPA rules forced oil refineries which supplied half the gasoline to the East Coast to close.
The EPA's policy toward oil companies "is kind of like how the Romans used to conquer villages in the Mediterranean -- they'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they'd find the first five guys they saw, they'd crucify 'em, and that little town was really easy to manage for the next few years," said Alfredo Armendariz, the EPA regional administrator for Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Mr. Armendariz resigned in April after his remark was reported. But for oil company executives, it epitomizes the EPA's attitude toward them and the stormtrooper tactics the agency employs.
An Idaho couple experienced those tactics firsthand. The EPA forbade the Sackett family from building a vacation home on their property, claiming it included wetlands, and then tried to prevent the couple from challenging the ruling in court. A unanimous Supreme Court ruled in March that the Sacketts had every right to sue the EPA.
The EPA has been conducting surveillance flights by drones over farms looking for violations of the Clean Water Act. Congress never gave the EPA authority to do that, Nebraska's congressional delegation complained in June.
The EPA wages war on fossil fuels ostensibly to restrict carbon emissions. But emissions are the lowest in 20 years, the Energy Information Administration reported this month. The chief reason is hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the new technology which has increased supplies of natural gas so much the U.S. could become energy independent in a few years. Burning natural gas produces 30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil; 45 percent less than coal.
Once the election is safely past, the EPA plans, on specious scientific grounds, to restrict fracking. This makes clear that the concern about CO2 isn't the real reason for its war on fossil fuels.
President Barack Obama has "invested" vast sums of taxpayer money in "renewable" energy firms, many of which, by remarkable coincidence, are owned by major contributors to his campaign. What little energy solar, wind and ethanol, etc. produce is much more expensive than energy from coal, oil and (especially) natural gas.
Despite massive subsidies, nearly all the alternative-energy firms are in financial trouble. So the president is counting on the EPA to so hamper production of fossil fuels that their price will rise to near the levels of the "renewables."
We must rein in this rogue agency before it destroys our economy, our environment and our liberty.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (jkelly@post- gazette.com, 412 263-1476).