Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, responded to the announcement today that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will extend the deadline for issuing the final 316(b) rule to July 27, 2013.
"President Obama's decision to punt on yet another job-killing EPA regulation before the election just goes to show how unpopular his agenda is with the public," Senator Inhofe said. "This rule as it stands will increase the regulatory burden on fifteen electric utilities in my state and raise Oklahomans' electricity bills, while providing uncertain, if any, benefits to Oklahoma's aquatic resources.
"The delay of this rule is just one more indication that EPA needs to undergo economic evaluations before moving full speed ahead with an agenda that destroys jobs and damages the economy. According to NERA, this rule is part of a barrage of regulations that add up to about $190 billion in lost GDP by 2020. That's why I've introduced the Comprehensive Assessment of Regulations on the Economy Act (CARE), a bill that requires EPA to undergo comprehensive studies of the impacts of its rules on employment, economic development, and electricity prices and determine each rule's total cost before moving forward.
"The American people deserve to know how much President Obama's EPA is going cost them, but this latest delay, along with his punting of other rules, clearly shows that he doesn't want them to find out before the election."
Under the proposed 316(b) rule, EPA is planning to regulate man-made cooling reservoirs that are adjacent to power plants as if they were natural lakes needing protections for fish populations. This plan is extremely costly - EPA estimates that the Draft rule would cost between $384 million and $460 million per year and have benefits of just $17 million, a cost benefit gap of more than 22 to 1. It is also unnecessary: these water intake structures have been in place on cooling reservoirs for many years and, in conjunction with review by the state environmental agency, they pose no threat to fishery populations. Most notably, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has said that fish populations in the state's utility cooling ponds are healthy.
Senator Inhofe remains concerned that EPA's planned implementation of section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act will have negative repercussions on Oklahoma's electric utilities, affecting fifteen power plants in the state. Last August he sent a letter to the Water Docket, detailing some of the potential impacts of the proposed rule in Oklahoma.
In order to address the economic impacts of 316(b) as well as many of EPA's other regulations, Senator Inhofe along with Senator Johanns introduced the Comprehensive Assessment of Regulations on the Economy Act (CARE) which requires EPA, in conjunction with other relevant federal departments and agencies, to determine the total cost of several major rules EPA is preparing to issue. The rules EPA would be required to study would include cooling water intake structures under 316 (b) of the Clean Water Act, Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards for power plants, National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter and ozone, New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for greenhouse gases covering utilities and refineries, Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) preconstruction review permits for greenhouse gases, Regional Haze, and Coal Combustion Waste under the Solid Waste Disposal Act.