Steinzor Testifies Today on Proposed Giveaway to Energy Industry

by Matthew Freeman

April 12, 2013

This morning, CPR President Rena Steinzor will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the proposed Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 (ECRA), yet another in a series of bills from House Republicans aimed at blocking federal regulatory agencies from fully implementing the nation's health and safety laws — in this case such landmark legislation as the Clean Air Act, and any other law enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency that is in any sense "energy-related."

Here's the nut paragraph of the bill:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may not promulgate as final an energy-related rule that is estimated to cost more than $1 billion if the Secretary of Energy determines under Section 3(3) [of ECRA] that, with respect to the rule, significant adverse effects to the economy will be caused.

In other words, the Secretary of Energy would have veto power over EPA.

Here's Steinzor's description of the proposal:

The ECRA is nothing more—and certainly nothing less—than yet another attempt by certain Members of Congress to shield some of the wealthiest and most heavily subsidized corporations in history from the relatively modest financial costs associated with carrying out their businesses in a manner that does not place people and the environment at unreasonable risk of harm.

Steinzor's full testimony is here.

One other note: For years, the mantra from the right wing was that regulations should be subjected to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, and toward that end, regulations from EPA and other agencies that would involve significant costs are put through a wringer in a process imposed on the agency by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. As we've written about at great length in this space, that process and, for that matter, OIRA itself, lean heavily toward the anti-regulatory side. But at least cost-benefit analysis considers benefits in some fashion.

Regulatory opponents like the ones backing this bill, however, now focus their argument solely on the "cost" side of the equation. You could search the language of ECRA from top to bottom without finding a single use of the word "benefit" or any reference to the benefits to Americans' health, the economy, energy efficiency…anything at all. Lives saved, illness prevented, mileage improved, endangered species preserved, oil spills prevented, you name it — the very reasons Congress adopted the Clean Air Act and all the other protective laws in the first place — none of them warrant mention or consideration in this re-imagined version of regulation.

Of course, the beneficiaries of this historic rewriting of the nation's environmental laws would be, not consumers, but the already hugely profitable energy industry — and their increased profit would come at the expense of Americans' health.

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