Dexter Perkins, Grand Forks, column: Don't let Congress undermine Clean Air Act
By Dexter Perkins GRAND FORKS -- Republican Congressional candidate Kevin Cramer complained in December about President Barack Obama's plan to have the Environmental Protection Agency regulate CO2 ("Congress, not EPA, should decide," Page A4, Dec...
By Dexter Perkins
GRAND FORKS -- Republican Congressional candidate Kevin Cramer complained in December about President Barack Obama's plan to have the Environmental Protection Agency regulate CO2 ("Congress, not EPA, should decide," Page A4, Dec. 21).
Cramer has his facts wrong. The EPA began the process to regulate CO2 during the Bush administration in response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. What is happening today is just a continuation of that process.
It is unfortunate and silly that Cramer and others present global warming as a partisan issue and an ideological disagreement, when in truth it is a factual matter.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate known pollutants, and the Supreme Court confirmed this. Two months ago, after careful review of all scientific evidence and consideration of thousands of public comments, the EPA determined what climate scientists have long known:
CO2 and other greenhouse gases pose a serious threat to public health and to the welfare of Americans. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that "business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the U.S. Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change.
"This continues our work toward clean energy reform that will cut greenhouse gases and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy." The EPA announcement was the culmination of what started during the Bush administration.
Unfortunately, some in Congress disagree with the Supreme Court. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, acknowledges that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but has introduced legislation to undermine the Clean Air Act. Murkowski's measure would let the nation's biggest polluters off the hook and give them no incentive to cut their pollution or move to cleaner technologies.
In the very short term, it would block EPA's clean cars standards, which the agency must complete by the end of March. The major U.S. automakers, the United Auto Workers, and U.S. states support the standards. The resolution also would block other common-sense actions under the Clean Air Act, a law with a nearly 40-year track record of cost-effectively cutting dangerous pollution to protect our health and environment and spurring innovation.
Cramer and others argue that carrying out the Clean Air Act will harm the nation's economy. He says it will "mortally wound" North Dakota because we are a coal producing state.
The Act's history as well as independent estimates by the Congressional Budget Office do not support Cramer's claim. According to EPA estimates, between 1970 and 1990 actions to reduce air pollution saved the nation an estimated $22 trillion in health care expenses and lost productivity, at a cost of $523 billion -- a remarkable 40-to-1 benefit-cost ratio.
The innovation and ingenuity of American industry have time and again shown that pollution reductions can be achieved faster and at lower cost than initially predicted. Additionally, many believe that North Dakota has most to gain by a move to clean energy because we have huge untapped wind energy resources.
North Dakota's coal industry is not going to disappear no matter what the EPA does. But instead of insisting on the right to pollute and promoting an old dirty industry, we should be leaders and grow North Dakota's economy by developing what everyone wants: energy generated from inexpensive non-polluting sources.
Perkins is a professor of geology and geological engineering at UND.