EPA should consider regulations’ true costs

Few federal officials have the kind of virtually unbridled power enjoyed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Merely by decreeing that in its officials’ opinion, an action is merited, the EPA can increase the cost of living dramatically for most Americans.

EPA abuse of that authority has intensified under President Barack Obama. He supports the agency’s campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants that provide reasonably priced electricity to more than one-third of the nation.

A federal appeals court handed the agency another victory Tuesday. It ruled the EPA can go ahead with new limits on emissions of mercury and other substances from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

One judge on the court took issue with the EPA, however. “The problem here is that EPA did not even consider the costs” of its plan, Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote. “And the costs are huge, about $9.6 billion a year – that’s billion with a b – by EPA’s own calculation.”

EPA officials’ response was that their actions should be based on health risks, not the cost to consumers.

But who defines “risk”? The EPA, of course. Many people are familiar with the agency’s studies insisting that “X” number of lives will be saved and “Y” number of illnesses will be prevented by some new rule.

It reminds one of the old comedy routine about such studies, adding up the numbers of people allegedly affected by something government wants to “protect” us against until the total vastly exceeds the number of people in a population.

This isn’t funny, however – especially when it is noted the EPA never factors into the equation what consumers might do with money new rules cost them, had they been allowed to choose how to spend it.

In this case, ask yourself how much of the $9.6 billion a year might have been used for better health insurance, more regular visits to the doctor, healthier food or any number of things that might be beneficial.

Consumers don’t get to choose, however. The EPA in effect orders us to spend tens of billions of dollars a year for various environmental programs – because the agency says so.

When the EPA was established decades ago, members of Congress then knew they were granting it virtually unprecedented authority. Since then, air, water and soil quality has improved exponentially, yet the EPA continues to claim it needs ever-more draconian rules to protect us – regardless of the cost.

Authority granted by Congress can be taken away by Congress. Why haven’t our elected lawmakers done that?