January 14, 2016
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
COMMENTS on EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0199
Proposed “Federal Plan and Model Rules for the Clean Power Plan” [80 FR 65979-80]
The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT or the Committee) is pleased to submit the following comments in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 Proposed Federal Plan and Model Rules for the Clean Power Plan, as issued by EPA and published in the Federal Register: 80 FR 65979-80.
With headquarters in Washington, DC, the Committee is a 501(c)(3) national and international environmental and educational organization dedicated to protecting both wildlife and ecological values and the needs and aspirations of people, families and communities.
We thank you for this opportunity to present our analyses and concerns, as CFACT, its members and supporters, our families, and the people we represent and assist will be adversely affected by EPA’s decision to declare that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, and must therefore be regulated under the Clean Air Act and Clean Power Plan.
The Proposed Federal Plan and Model Rules for the Clean Power Plan and other EPA rulemakings will sharply curtail the use of coal and natural gas in generating electricity. They will thereby adversely affect job creation and retention; the price and availability of the energy, food and consumer products we need in our daily lives; and the health and welfare of millions of families, especially poor, minority and blue-collar families in states that currently rely on coal and natural gas in generating electricity.
From CFACT’s perspective, EPA’s Clean Power Plan is not warranted by the Clean Air Act or evidence relied upon by the Agency. The plan will harm human health and welfare, but do nothing to improve environmental quality or prevent climate change, much less “dangerous” climate change. Indeed, EPA’s rules themselves present a far more serious threat to the health, welfare and pursuit of happiness, justice and civil rights progress of our members, the people we represent, and all Americans – than do any reasonably foreseeable manmade climate and weather changes. Our detailed analysis follows.
CFACT comments on EPA’s Clean Power Plan
The Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan (CPP) requires that states reduce their electric utility sector carbon dioxide emissions an average of 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
EPA devised its authority for the CPP by converting 80 words in the Clean Air Act into 2,690 pages of regulations and appendices. The unprecedented plan requires that utilities return the nation’s overall CO2 emissions almost to 1975 levels, while our population grows by a projected 40 million over the next fifteen years. Some 30 states will have to slash their power plant CO2 emissions by more than 32 percent; at least 12 will have to implement 40-48 percent reductions.
That is a tall order, a near impossibility, since all those states now get 50-96 percent of their electricity from coal, and all of them depend on coal plus natural gas for nearly all their electric power.
Mandating that transition and requiring that these states convert 20 percent or more of their electricity generation to expensive and unreliable wind and solar energy by 2030 will be disastrous. It will raise energy costs dramatically and seriously harm families, businesses, industries and communities. Electricity rates will likely rise from the 8-9 cents per kilowatt-hour currently paid in coal-reliant states at least to the 15-17 cents/kWh in “green energy” states like California. They could skyrocket to the 36-40 cents/kWh now paid in Denmark and Germany (70-80 cents when taxpayer subsidies are included).
Adverse impacts on human health and welfare
Those rising electricity rates will affect everything people make, grow, ship, eat and do – just as they have in Europe. They will impair people’s livelihoods, living standards and life spans.
Poor, minority and working class families will have to find hundreds of extra dollars per year to pay these rising energy bills, even as more Americans end up living below the official poverty line and median family incomes have declined by more than $3,000 per year since President Obama took office.
Small businesses will have to find thousands of dollars every year, just to keep the heat and lights on, without laying more workers off. Factories, malls, school districts, hospitals and cities will have to pay millions more, while trying to pay pensions and other rising costs. This is unsustainable.
Under the CPP, everything business owners, workers, families and communities strived for their entire lives will be at risk. Millions of workers will lose their jobs, leaving more families destitute and welfare dependent, with a lower sense of self-worth. Many will have to choose between buying food and gasoline, paying the rent or mortgage, going to the doctor, giving to their church, or saving for retirement.
Studies clearly show that tighter finances bring serious adverse consequences. As their household budgets are reduced by the CPP’s impacts, families will face more sleep deprivation, greater stress and depression, and more drug, alcohol, spousal and child abuse. More people without jobs and living on the margins will bring more theft and robbery. Constricted budgets mean nutrition and medical care will suffer, and more people are likely to have strokes and heart attacks, die prematurely or commit suicide.
More elderly people will be put at risk from hypothermia, because they can no longer afford to heat their homes properly. Contrary to EPA statements regarding the dangers of global warming, cold weather kills 20 times more people than hot weather – and recent winters have been long and cold in much of the United States, Europe and elsewhere. In Britain, thousands of pensioners now die of hypothermia every winter, because soaring energy costs have made it impossible for them to afford adequate heat. To cause that to happen here in the USA would be immoral and unconscionable.
Instead of acknowledging any of this, EPA has employed a deceptive “social cost of carbon” analysis that places arbitrary inflated costs on damages the agency claims result from alleged climate risks from using carbon-based fuels. These calculations include every imaginable and imaginary cost of using fossil fuels – while completely ignoring the enormous benefits of utilizing coal, oil and natural gas.
Indeed, fossil fuels facilitated successive industrial revolutions and now enable billions to live better than royal families did a mere 150 years ago. They have helped average incomes increase eleven-fold, and helped average global life expectancy to soar from less than 30 in 1870 to 71 today. They have made U.S. factories, schools, hospitals and living standards the envy of the world.
Ignoring all these benefits, EPA even claims its anti-energy Clean Power Plan will reduce asthma rates. However, asthma rates have increased slightly, while air pollution has declined. This underscores that asthma hospitalizations and outdoor air pollution levels are not related. The real causes of asthma are allergies, a failure to expose young children to sufficient allergens to cause their immune systems to build resistance to airborne allergens, and lack of sufficient exercise to keep lungs robust. The CPP will obviously do nothing to change those dynamics.
Reducing access to affordable, reliable electricity will further exacerbate our nation’s untenable unemployment and welfare situation. More than 94 million Americans are not working, and the labor force participation rate is the lowest in 38 years, with barely 62 percent of the U.S. population either holding a job or actively seeking one. Nearly 8.5 million Americans do not have jobs, some 40 percent have given up even looking, and more than 6 million are involuntarily working one or more jobs part-time, because they cannot find full-time positions.
Millions of families are living on the edge.
More than 120,000 primary and secondary jobs have been lost in America’s coal-producing states since 2008, the majority of them because of onerous EPA regulations. Dozens of coal mining companies have filed for bankruptcy, and the market value of the remaining companies has plummeted. World events are making it increasingly difficult for companies to stay in business and workers to support their families. Anger, frustration and despair in poor, minority and blue-collar communities are understandably rising.
Increasing electricity and regulatory compliance costs are a major factor in all of this, and the Clean Power Plan will only make the situation worse. In effect, EPA is trying to protect people from conjectural, exaggerated and illusory climate risks years or decades from now, by increasing the economic problems, anxiety, and health and welfare woes they already face. That is intolerable and unconscionable.
Adverse effects on wildlife and the environment
The Clean Power Plan will also impair environmental values. Sprawling wind and solar installations and transmission lines already impact millions of acres of agricultural, wildlife and scenic areas. Huge wind turbines and solar facilities already kill millions of eagles, hawks, other birds and bats every year.
The Clean Power Plan will make this situation far worse, by forcing states to build more, increasingly larger wind and solar facilities, increasingly in sensitive wildlife habitat areas, which are often the best remaining areas for abundant wind and sun. Just as bad, the electricity they generate is expensive and unreliable and unable to replace conventional 24/7/365 coal- and gas-based electricity.
Vast stretches of croplands and wildlife habitats have also been plowed under to grow corn, switchgrass and other plants for ethanol and other biofuels. At a time when we have abundant supplies of oil and natural gas that can be produced more efficiently, at lower cost, with fewer carbon dioxide emissions via fracking and conventional means, more than 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop is now being turned into ethanol. This makes no sense. But it too is required under EPA’s various climate control plans.
Asserted climate change benefits are illusory
Our planet’s climate has changed regularly throughout earth and human history, in response to powerful, interconnected natural forces that humans cannot control. There is no evidence in the climate or weather record that government will ever be able to control climate and weather by limiting the amount of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide that humans emit into the atmosphere.
Indeed, contrary to EPA claims about carbon dioxide being a “dangerous pollutant,” more CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere will improve crop, forest and grassland growth, even during prolonged droughts and cold periods. This is already occurring, as witnessed by the increased “greening” of the Sahel and many other regions, improved forest and crop growth across our planet, and other phenomena recorded by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and many other researchers.
Moreover, hurricanes and tornadoes, storms, droughts, polar ice and sea levels are all within the realm of historic experience. There is nothing dangerous or “unprecedented” about them, nor is there any evidence that CO2 is “acidifying” oceans that are and will remain firmly alkaline. There is certainly nothing to justify shutting down our carbon-based energy system, dramatically increasing energy costs, transforming our economy, destroying millions of jobs, and impairing human health and welfare.
In fact, contrary to computer model predictions, average global temperatures have not budged by more than a couple hundredths of a degree in nearly 19 years. In fact, the climate models consistently misrepresent past temperature and climate trends and predict much greater warming than Earth has actually experienced. That makes the models, and the assumptions behind them, invalid.
Meanwhile, October 24, 2015 marked a full ten years since a category 3-5 hurricane last hit the United States. (Hurricane Wilma in 2005; Sandy hit as a Category 2.) That’s a record dating back at least to 1900. It’s also the first time since 1914 that no hurricanes formed anywhere in the Western Atlantic, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico through September 22 of any calendar year.
Seas are rising at barely seven inches a century. Droughts and other “extreme weather events” are less frequent, severe and long-lasting than during the twentieth century. Polar ice is freezing at or above historical rates in the Arctic and Greenland, and at a record pace in Antarctica. Polar bear numbers are at record highs, having risen from 5,000 worldwide 65 years ago to more than 25,000 today.
Moreover, as Secretary of State John Kerry admitted in Paris, even if all the industrialized nations’ CO2 emissions declined to zero, “it wouldn’t be enough [to prevent alleged climate disasters], not when more than 65% of the world’s carbon pollution comes from the developing world.” And that assumes carbon dioxide has replaced the powerful natural forces that have always controlled climate and weather.
Once again accepting the false claim that carbon dioxide does drive climate change, all the regulations that EPA is promulgating would prevent an undetectable 0.018 degrees Celsius (0.032 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, climatologists Patrick Michaels and Paul Knappenberger have calculated. The Clean Power Plan alone would achieve only a fraction of those trivial benefits.
Questionable data and reports behind the Clean Power Plan
EPA relies heavily on NOAA, NASA, IPCC and other agency data and studies that can only be characterized as misleading or even deceptive. To cite just one example, a recent NOAA study claimed that global warming has not stalled for almost 19 years. That stall or hiatus is confirmed by satellite records, and is contrary to all computer climate model forecasts.
To get this result, the NOAA study adjusted sea-surface temperature data from a global network of buoys upward by 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.25 F), to “homogenize” the buoy data with records from engine intake systems on ships – and thereby create a previously undetected warming trend. (That alleged warming trend was a bare few hundredths of a degree, less than the margin of error in NOAA’s review.) However, the intake data were contaminated by heat from the ships, rendering them invalid, whereas the buoy network was designed for accurate environmental monitoring.
A more accurate, defensible study would therefore have adjusted the ship data downward, to homogenize them with the more reliable buoy data. The fact that this was not done casts further suspicion on the “science” behind EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
In addition, in promulgating its Clean Power Plan and other regulations on climate change, EPA has clearly violated Office of Management and Budget and other guidelines on “Peer Review for Influential Scientific Information” and “Highly Influential Scientific Assessments.” Its regulations clearly have significant impacts on the U.S. economy, jobs, the environment, and human health and welfare. And the IPCC, NOAA and other studies used to justify those regulatory actions are clearly “influential scientific information” and “highly influential” scientific assessments, for which wide ranging peer review by experts outside the closed circle of government and government-financed scientists was required. EPA’s failure to abide by these clear rules makes its Clean Power Plan and other actions improper and arguably illegal under government laws and guidelines.
At EPA’s behest, the Justice Department has sued Volkswagen. The government is seeking up to $18 billion dollars in penalties, because VW installed special software that caused its diesel cars to emit fewer pollutants during tests used to ensure compliance with emission regulations. The falsified tests allegedly duped American consumers into purchasing thousands of diesel-powered vehicles.
Federal prosecutors are also conducting criminal probes of Volkswagen and its executives. Former Boston crime lab technician Annie Dookhan was prosecuted for faking test results and contaminating drug samples, to get accused dealers convicted. Countless other civil and criminal investigations and prosecutions have companies and citizens in their crosshairs.
Such actions are often warranted, even if the draconian incarceration and monetary penalties are not.
A fundamental principle is at stake here: Government agencies and regulators must abide by the same standards and rules they expect citizens and corporations to live by. Policies and rules that affect our lives, livelihoods and living standards must be based on verifiable, replicable scientific evidence.
No one should be victimized by misleading claims by private companies – or made by government agencies or scientists or third-party scientists whom they hire and use to validate policies and regulations.
Equally important, no one forces us to buy a VW or any other car. But when it comes to laws and regulations, we have no choice. We must submit to them, or else. If those rules are based on dishonesty – on emission deception on a large, unprecedented level in the case of climate rules – we pay a huge, unacceptable price. That is exactly what is happening under EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
Moreover, these rules are being promulgated in direct contravention and circumvention of the clear will of Congress, which has rejected nearly 700 climate bills, and in collusion with environmentalist pressure groups, via secretive emails, meetings and sue-and-settle lawsuits, in developing these regulatory edicts. That is contrary to federal law, our Constitution, the separation of powers and sound public policy.
Actions by other countries make U.S. sacrifices meaningless
Carbon-based energy still provides 80 percent of U.S. and 81 percent of world energy. It supports $70 trillion per year in world GDP. Fossil fuels will supply 75-80 percent of global energy for decades to come, Energy Information Administration, International Energy Agency and other studies forecast.
Carbon-based energy is essential if we are to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people who still do not have it, and end the rampant poverty and lung, intestinal and other diseases that kill millions of people in poor countries every year. That is why thousands of coal-fired power plants are being built, under construction or in planning around the world.
Britain plans to end all “green” subsidies by 2025, to reduce electricity prices that have sent millions of families into energy poverty and caused the loss of thousands of jobs in the UK steelmaking sector.
Germany’s reliance on coal continues to rise; it now generates 44 percent of its electricity from the black rock – more than any other EU nation. In Poland, Prime Minister Eva Kopacz says nuclear energy is no longer a priority, and her country’s energy security will instead focus increasingly on coal.
China now gets 75 percent of its electricity from coal. Its coal consumption declined slightly in 2014, as the Middle Kingdom turned slightly to natural gas and solar, to reduce serious air quality problems. However, it plans to build 363 new coal-fired power plants, with many plants eventually outfitted or retrofitted with scrubbers and other equipment to reduce emissions of real, health-impairing pollution.
India will focus on “energy efficiency” and reduce its CO2 “emission intensity” (per unit of growth), but not its overall emissions. It will also boost its reliance on wind and solar power, mostly for remote areas that will not be connected to the subcontinent’s growing electrical grid anytime soon. However, it plans to open a new coal mine every month and double its coal production and use by 2020. China and India will not consider reducing their GHG emissions until 2030, and even then it will be voluntary and dependent on how their economies are doing.
Pakistan is taking a similar path – as are Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations. Even Japan plans to build 41 new coal-fired units over the next decade, partly to replace its nuclear power plants. Overall, says the International Energy Agency, Southeast Asia’s energy demand will soar 80 percent by 2040, and fossil fuels will provide 80 percent of the region’s total energy mix by that date.
Africa will pursue a similar route to lifting its people out of poverty. The continent has abundant oil, coal and natural gas – and it intends to burn those fuels, while it utilizes wind and solar power in remote areas until they can be connected to the continent’s slowly growing electrical grids.
All this fossil fuel use means the costly, painful, job-killing, draconian energy reductions required under EPA’s Clean Power Plan will have no effect whatsoever on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which will continue to climb, further greening the planet and spurring faster crop, forest and grassland growth. Even if we assume once again that carbon dioxide has somehow replaced the powerful natural forces that have always driven Earth’s climate and weather, the CPP will do nothing to stabilize, prevent or roll back global warming, global cooling, other climate changes and extreme weather events.
The realities presented in these comments help explain why a December 2015 Gallup poll found that Americans view intrusive government regulation, our weak economy, unemployment and terrorism as the biggest threats facing our nation. Pollution came in at #23, and global warming didn’t even register among 48 listed issues. EPA’s Clean Power Plan ignores these realities and public concerns.
Indeed, the central issue is not whether Planet Earth is warming. The issues are these:
How much is Earth warming, if at all? How much of actual warming and other climate changes in recent decades are due to mankind’s use of fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gases – and how much are due to powerful solar and other natural forces over which humans have absolutely no control? And will any changes be short-term or long-term … good, bad, neutral or catastrophic?
At this time, there is no scientific evidence – based on actual observations and measurements of temperatures and weather events – that humans are altering the climate to a significant or dangerous degree. Computer models, political statements and hypothetical cataclysms cannot and must not substitute for that absence of actual evidence, especially when the consequences would be so dire for so many.
Simply put, the danger is not climate change – which will always be with us. The real, immediate danger is energy restrictions imposed in the name of controlling Earth’s perpetually fickle climate.
The Clean Power Plan will harm human health and welfare, wildlife and environmental quality, but will do nothing to prevent climate change, “dangerous” or otherwise.
The Environmental Protection Agency needs to scrap its plan to implement its Clean Power Plan, and any “model rules” developed under the Plan.
Executive Director, CFACT