EPA, Climate Change and Regulatory Certainty

Pruitt and TrumpA federal appeals court has blocked EPA’s delay of its methane pollution rule. The court says that the reasoning EPA used, that interested parties didn’t have an opportunity to comment, was “unreasonable,” “arbitrary” and “capricious.”  As the New York Times explains, “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.”

So, blocking EPA’s delaying action is very good news for the earth, and for those of us destined to live upon the earth. And it’s also good news for those of us who are alarmed at the dozens of other protections that the EPA and other agencies are seeking to delay, roll back and reconsider. (EPA’s delay and reconsideration of the agency’s Risk Management Program rule that requires measures to prevent chemical plant explosions used the same faulty logic as the methane delay.)

What I find curious and confusing is the reaction to the Court’s action from the American Petroleum Institute (API). An API spokesperson stated that “A stay is needed to allow for regulatory certainty as E.P.A. continues the formal process to review the rule making.”

“Regulatory certainty” makes sense. Industry needs as much “certainty” as they can get in order to make long term investment decisions. We understood that at OSHA, trying to develop compliance assistance materials, regulatory interpretations and compliance directives on a timely basis in order to ensure that the regulated industry knew exactly what to expect when the agency enforces new standards.

But in this case, the EPA has decided to uproot a regulation that was already in effect, delaying it for at least two years and presumably restarting the lengthy regulatory process, which will end up, in a few years in a different rule or no rule at all.  By that time, we’re likely already at the end of this Presidential term. Then we have an election,  and possibly a new President. And if it’s a President from the other party (and if climate change is still a problem) it’s highly likely that the “new” methane regulation gets withdrawn and the new administration starts work on a newer version — for the next two or three years.

So now we’re up to around six years of regulatory UNcertainty, vs. the certainty we would have had if they had just left the original methane regulation alone.

I understand that the American Petroleum Institute is all about the unimpeded use of petroleum and therefore opposes the methane rule or any regulations that address climate change. And with the assistance of their good friend who leads an oil-rich country whose capital is located just this side of the Urals, they have managed to elect their own President. The result, as we have seen, is a complete corporate takeover of the EPA.

So be it. It is what it is, as they say. We all have to deal with that reality for the next few years.

But let’s at least be honest about it. What the petroleum industry actually wants is not “regulatory certainty,” but certainty that there will be fewer regulations. In other words, deregulatory certainty is their only goal.

 

 

Environmental Protection Agency Regulations and Standards

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