The REAL costs of EPA’s laws and regulations

They often impair our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards, life styles and life spans

  • EPA building

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed onerous new limits carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. The standards would prevent construction of new facilities, gradually close older ones, and eventually affect even gas-fired units.

EPA says the rules will safeguard our health and welfare from storms, sea level rise and other ravages of man-made climate change. They are in addition to 1,900 other Obama-era regulations designed to curtail or terminate coal mining and use – and dictate activities affecting air and emissions, land and soils, waterways and puddles.

Far too often, the rules are based on speculative health and environmental claims, cherry-picked Federal Registerstudies, dismissal of analyses that contradict agency assertions, and computer models that reflect unfounded assumptions and agenda-driven rule-making.

Many scientists challenge EPA’s claim that carbon dioxide controls climate change; point to solar, cosmic, oceanic and other factors the agency ignores; and note that higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2 spur plant growth and green our planet. They point out that humans contribute only 4% of the CO2 that enters the atmosphere each year, and US coal-based power generation is responsible for only 3% of worldwide human CO2 emissions.

In other words, the power plants EPA wants to shut down account for a trivial 0.01% of the carbon dioxide added to Earth’s atmosphere annually, raising CO2 levels to about 0.04% of the atmosphere

There has been no increase in average global temperatures in 16 years. No Category 3 hurricane has hit the USA in eight years. 2013 has spawned the fewest tornadoes in decades.

Making EPA’s global warming claims even more preposterous, China, India, Russia and Brazil alone emit twice as much carbon dioxide as the United States. That means EPA’s regulations will have zero effect on climate change, and zero benefits, even if CO2 does control Earth’s climate.

EPA justifications for expensive, job-killing mercury, soot and other regulations are equally questionable.

Moreover, this is just one agency. Countless other federal, state, local and international regulatory authorities are also busy interpreting, implementing and imposing rules under thousands of laws, ordinances and treaties. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s “Ten Thousand Commandments” project calculates that federal rules alone cost American businesses and families $1.8 trillion in annual compliance costs.

No one has estimated the enormous cumulative costs of all the multiple layers of rules – on our economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, job creation and retention, prosperity and pursuit of happiness.

Legislators and regulators justify the rules with assertions that they control miscreants and bring vast benefits to the citizenry. All too often, however, the benefits exist only in their minds, computer models and press releases.

Worse, this is barely the tip of the iceberg. This legal and regulatory behemoth, our crushing $17 trillion national debt and massive unfunded entitlements mean fewer jobs, more layoffs and steadily declining quality of life for tens of millions of Americans. They cannot heat and cool their homes properly, pay rent, mortgage or other bills, take vacations, or save for college and retirement.

Work also brings purpose, pride, stature, and opportunities to serve one’s family and community. Being unable to find or keep a job erodes self-confidence, self-worth and psychological well-being.

The stress of being unemployed – or having to hold several low-paying part-time jobs – meanspoor nutrition, sleep deprivation, more miles of stressful, expensive commuting, family dysfunction, and higher incidences of depression, and alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse. It means lower life expectancies and higher suicide rates.

It means the complex, indecipherable, burdensome regulations themselves impair our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans – for few or no benefits.

It means every life allegedly saved because of countless, often unjustified regulations is offset by lives lost or shortened because of those rules.

EPA doesn’t even mention any of this – mGina Mccarthyuch less include them in its “human health and welfare” analyses, place quantitative values on these impacts, conduct cost-benefit studies, or calculate how many lives will be shortened or lost because of its rules. This failure violates the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires that regulatory actions protect the quality of the overall “human environment.”

It violates Information Quality Act guidelines, which require that regulatory agencies base “major” and “influential” rule-makings on analyses that are accurate, unbiased and complete – not cherry-picked, agenda driven and without regard for the pernicious impacts of the regulations themselves.

It violates the most fundamental principle of regulation: First, do no harm.

Congress, state legislatures and the judicial system must address this huge and growing problem, and not just for EPA; for all regulatory agencies. Not being part of the solution means continuing to be part of the problem, responsible for a growing debacle for workers, living standards, health, welfare and lives.

Requiring this comprehensive analysis for all regulations would be a valuable addition to the REINS legislation (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny). However, our courts could already demand it under the NEPA, IQA and other laws.

Business, family, health, welfare and other public interest organizations should nevertheless join concerned legislators in requiring this fundamental and essential cost-benefit analysis for all regulations. Who could honestly oppose safeguarding the health, welfare and lives of American citizens?

This article first appeared in

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About the Author: Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for CFACT and author of Cracking Big Green and Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death.

  • Askel Sharkowski

    Coal is a dirty fuel source and there are many more concerns than just CO2 associated with it. Mining it is dangerous work and is associated with mountain top removal that harms our landscape and contributes to polluted waterways and underground fires that burn for years.
    Can we move away from coal? Sure, but only if we are willing to move forward with sources such as nuclear and hydropower.

  • Arationofreason

    Since according to this article, US coal plants contribute 3% of world carbon into the atmosphere and according to UNIPCC AR5 their most pessimistic prognostication of temperature rise is 1.5 deg. C in a century the US contribution of all coal fired plants is 0.045 deg C. How many $billion will that cost us in our power bills and increased taxes. Inquiring minds want to know.

    Although this is 40 times the temperature rise computed more scientifically, it is still below the measurement accuracy of science today. Even the 1.5 C. projection is based on unverifiable computer models and is higher than the rise being observed by multiple satellites, balloon and ocean buoy temperature measurements which are real data and not model based conjecture.
    ?Why would anyone in their right mind take such draconian steps for an unmeasurable effect?

    • ChuckS123

      An arbitrary time like 100 years could be problematic. Temperatures do cycles. What if the start of the 100 years is a cycle low and the end is a cycle high? maybe it’s more meaningful to look at cycle highs and lows.

  • D Eiland

    The problem as i see it is if other countries don’t impose the same limits; then jobs just go to these countries that have less regulations. Consider the pesticides that we took out of this country in the early 70′s; they just grow the crops in Mexico and spray the same pesticides like DDT.

    I certainly believe we need to do what we can to keep the air/water clean; however, with all the “green” agendas it is really hard to discern what is a true threat from the chaff.

  • Bay0Wulf

    While I agree that there is some need for some regulations. Regulations can be a positive thing but not when they begin to look like our legal system. Thousands of regulations that almost no-one reads are not the answer. Old, superceded regulations that are never removed need to be culled out.

    Regulations that are made as a knee jerk reaction to some group’s complaint are not useful.

    There are several “Regulatory” bodies whose main purpose seems to be making new regulations so as to confirm that they need to exist.

    It is my belief that several (hundreds or thousands) of the regulations that are out there actually impede our ability to get to the point that we can correct the underlying problem that causes the need for the regulation.

    Case in Point: We are restricting our use of coal and other various fuels in order to create a “Greener World”. These restrictions drive the costs of investigating and/or inventing new technologies too high to be justified to investors or stockholders so these possibilities are never explored.

    One example is “Rare Minerals”. Almost all the rare minerals in the USA are on protected lands and therefore are not available. Almost all of the new and breaking “Clean Technologies” require these rare minerals. We cannot easily buy them from anyone and we are being prohibited from using the ones we have. One of these uses is in the manufacture of more efficient solar cells (where the Chinese are already ahead of us).

    China has quite a lot but are highly restricted for export so our scientists and inventors have to go to China to gain access but … even items that Our People come up with are not allowed to be exported. Even if they use materials sent by the
    USA, once these materials enter China they are not allowed to be exported (sent back).

    How are we to advance these technologies when we are turning off the power (making it more expensive) and locking away the assets required to reach for the next level?

  • jameshrust

    Energy is a big asset the United States has in abundance. We need to produce items the public wants to buy. Cloths, electronics, and many other items are produced outside the country at prices we can’t compete with. Let us use our energy resources and export them as a means to reduce balance of payment to zero.
    The EPA puts out regulations and rules that cause more harm than good. The renewable fuels standard is requiring more and more ethanol in our fuels. It reduces mileage, consumes valuable food that could be exported, requires more energy than contained in the product, consumes enormous amounts of water, and according to a National Academy of Sciences report, “The production and use of ethanol from biomass is projected to result in higher release our air pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone, and sulfur oxide than petroleum-based fuels”.
    EPA follows a political agenda to rid the U. S. of using fossil fuels. Replacements cause more danger like mercury spread inside houses through CFLs, higher electricity prices causing unemployment and poorer environment for the poor which will shorten life spans, promoting carbon capture and sequestration that subjects the population to suffocating deaths from leakage of carbon dioxide reservoirs, unsafe cars due to mandated mileage increases causing imprudent weight losses, etc.
    James H. Rust, Professor

  • http://www.enviroequipment.com/ Enviro Equipment, Inc.

    At first I was skeptical of the quote that increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere Make plants grow faster, so I did a little research and found that even the ultra-environmentalist website “TreeHugger” wrote an article that validated this assertion… although they did modify it somewhat by saying it only increases the growth of trees not all plants.