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Senator Thune's Weekly Column: Obama's EPA Director Damaged South Dakota's Economy

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Date:
Location: Unknown

Backdoor energy taxes and burdensome regulations have become synonymous with the overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The past four years have been riddled with job-reducing mandates and taxes increasing energy costs for all South Dakotans that blocked development projects and destroyed opportunities for job creation. In late December, the Obama White House announced that EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, would be leaving her post as the agency's top official.

With Jackson in charge at the EPA, Otter Tail Power, which was the lead developer of the Big Stone II project in South Dakota, made the decision in September of 2009 to pull out of the project citing uncertainty associated with proposed and existing federal environmental regulations. Big Stone II was a $1.6 billion power plant that would have created over 2,500 jobs. Additionally, due to the EPA's Boiler Mact rule, South Dakota businesses and consumers face imminent rate increases and the Ben French power plant in Rapid City will soon be shut down. South Dakota's other remaining power plant, Big Stone I, faces a $490 million upgrade required to comply with new EPA regulations. The cost of this upgrade will likely be passed on to Big Stone I customers.

Questionable, controversial and expensive new rules, such as new carbon dioxide regulations under the Clean Air Act, also originated under Jackson's tenure at the EPA. These new regulations and resulting lawsuits have caused delays to the Elk Point Hyperion project and have resulted in further uncertainty as to whether its construction deadlines will now be met, or whether the refinery will even ultimately be built. The Hyperion refinery is a multi-billion dollar project that would create thousands of jobs in South Dakota.

The Obama administration's opportunity to bring in a new EPA administrator will allow it to consider moving the agency in a new direction that will help curb environmental hazards without placing onerous regulations on businesses, eliminating jobs, and increasing the cost of energy for all South Dakotans. Since it is unlikely the Obama administration will correct the course of the EPA, the Senate must act on regulatory reform and ensure that agencies like the EPA conduct accurate cost-benefit analyses of proposed regulations to ensure federal regulatory oversight is not harming job creation and economic growth.

As the new session of Congress begins, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stop this power grab by the administration and work to pass legislation that strikes a balance between protecting our environment and safeguarding our economy. National energy policies and regulations should be put in place by the American people through their elected officials, not by unelected bureaucrats at the EPA.


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