EPA turning blind eye to cost of climate regs, chairman charges

The chairman of a House panel accused the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday of shirking its statutory duty to consider small business concerns as the agency moves forward with major regulations meant to curb climate change.

Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), agencies, including the EPA, must consider the effects of new federal regulations on the private sector via small business review panels meant to help them craft rules that cause the least pain.

“Unfortunately, compliance with RFA has too often been the exception rather than the rule, and few agencies have done a worse job in meeting their RFA obligations to small businesses than the EPA,” Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) said. 

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Tipton, chairman of the House Small Business subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, and other members of the panel further assailed the agency for declining an invitation to appear at a hearing to discuss the issue.

“Perhaps the agency feels it is justified in pursuing rule-making without seeking advanced small business input,” Tipton said, “If so, then they could have appeared before the committee today and have said so on the record.”

A panel of small business owners and scholars told the panel that forthcoming regulations that would limit emissions from new and existing power plants would have a crushing effect. That is particularly true for coal plants, which produce almost 40 percent of the country’s power, they testified.

Michael Kezar, general manager of the San Miguel Cooperative Inc., said a coal plant owned by the company in Texas would be forced to close if the final rules for existing plants mirror the proposed standards for new ones.

“We couldn’t meet those requirements,” Kezar said. “I don’t see any other alternative.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) the lone Democratic member of the committee to participate in the hearing, argued that President Obama’s push for pollution reductions would save lives and spur growth in renewable energy industries.

“Small firms could face higher energy bills,” Murphy conceded, arguing that the rules would also “stimulate further energy innovation.”

Regardless of advances on that front, the United States is likely to remain reliant on coal for the foreseeable future, said Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University.

Weinstein said small businesses generally operate with thinner profit margins than big companies and, therefore, are disproportionately hit by new regulations.

Asked whether the EPA is complying with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, Weinstein replied, “I think the EPA is pretty much ignoring the statute.”

“Like they ignored this hearing,” Tipton added.