Last year, I wrote about our unsuccessful attempts to get the Utah Legislature to at least modify House Joint Resolution 12, which urged the EPA to forego its plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Personally, it didn’t bother me that they were urging the EPA to alter its plans so much as it bothered me that the bill contained numerous “Whereas” clauses that parroted pseudoscientific nonsense, or ridiculous conspiracy theories. That kind of thing just kills any prospect of honest debate, because it shows that our legislators simply don’t care about honest debate, and will glom on to any argument that supports their cause, no matter how ridiculous it is.
This year, Rep. Roger Barrus (R-Centerville) has introduced House Joint Resolution 19, which also urges the EPA to forego its plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But this time, the pseudoscience and conspiracy theories are nowhere to be found. Here’s the text:
JOINT RESOLUTION OPPOSING THE ENVIRONMENTALPROTECTION AGENCY’S REGULATION OF GREENHOUSEGASES
2011 GENERAL SESSION
STATE OF UTAH
Chief Sponsor: Roger E. Barrus
Senate Sponsor: ____________
This joint resolution of the Legislature expresses opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of Greenhouse Gases without Congressional approval.
This resolution: calls on Congress to adopt legislation prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without Congressional approval including, if necessary, not funding EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activities; calls on Congress to impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new GHG regulation by the EPA for a period of at least two years, except to directly address an imminent health or environmental emergency; calls on Congress to require the current administration to carry out a study identifying all regulatory activity that the EPA intends to undertake in furtherance of its goal of “taking action on climate change and improving air quality” and provide an objective cost-benefit analysis and cumulative effect that the EPA’s current and planned regulation will have on global climate, public health, the U.S. economy, jobs, and economic competitiveness in worldwide markets; and expresses support for continuing improvements to the quality of the nation’s air and declares that such improvements can be made without damaging the economy as long as there is a full understanding of the cost and benefit of the regulations at issue.
Be it resolved by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
WHEREAS, concern is growing that with the failure of cap-and-trade legislation in Congress the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is attempting to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the adoption and implementation of regulations without Congressional approval;
WHEREAS, the EPA is proposing numerous new rules to regulate GHG emissions as pollutants through the Clean Air Act;
WHEREAS, the EPA has not performed any comprehensive study of the environmental benefits of its GHG regulation in terms of impacts on global climate;
WHEREAS, the EPA’s regulatory activity of GHG has numerous and overlapping requirements that are likely to have major effects on the nation’s economy, jobs, and U.S. competitiveness in worldwide markets;
WHEREAS, neither the EPA nor the current administration has undertaken any comprehensive study on the cumulative effect that regulating GHGs will have on the nation’s economy, jobs, and U.S. competitiveness;
WHEREAS, state agencies are routinely required to identify the costs of their regulations and to justify those costs in light of the benefits;
WHEREAS, since the EPA has identified “taking action on climate change and improving air quality” as its first strategic goal for the time frame of 2011-15, it should be required to identify the specific actions it intends to take to achieve these goals and to assess the cumulative effect of these actions on public health, climate change, and on the U.S. economy;
WHEREAS, the primary goal of government at the present time must be to promote economic recovery and to foster a stable and predictable business environment that will lead to the creation of new jobs; and
WHEREAS, the public’s health and welfare will suffer without significant new job creation and economic improvement since environmental improvement is most successful in a society that generates wealth:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah calls on Congress to adopt legislation prohibiting the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without Congressional approval, including, if necessary, not funding EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activities.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature calls on Congress to impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new GHG regulation by the EPA for a period of at least two years, except for the need to directly address an imminent health or environmental emergency.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature calls on Congress to require the Administration to carry out a study identifying all regulatory activity that the EPA intends to undertake in furtherance of its goal of “taking action on climate change and improving air quality” and provide an objective cost-benefit analysis and cumulative effect that EPA’s current and planned regulation will have on global climate, public health, the U.S. economy, jobs, and economic competitiveness in worldwide markets.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature expresses its support for continuing improvements to the quality of the nation’s air and declares that such improvements can be made without damaging the economy as long as there is a full understanding of the costs and benefits of the regulations at issue.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the President of the United States, and to the members of Utah’s Congressional Delegation.
The bottom line appears to be that Rep. Barrus thinks 1) the EPA shouldn’t regulate greenhouse gas emissions without a congressional mandate, and 2) such regulations would cause economic damage at a time when we’re cutting back. Therefore, the resolution calls for Congress to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases until they do a full “cost-benefit analysis” of the impacts of the resolution on climate, the economy, etc. In short, HJR 19 (2011) is the bill that HJR 12 (2010) would have been if the legislature had listened to us and taken out all the crazy stuff.
That being the case, I don’t want to complain too much about HJR 19. The fact is that even I think the EPA ought to wait for a congressional mandate, because if there’s one thing that’s a business killer, it’s uncertainty. If the EPA under Obama pushes through these regulations, then the next administration repeals them, the next one reinstates them, and so on, businesses won’t know how to plan. Getting legislation through Congress is much harder, but then it’s harder to repeal, as well. Therefore, taking the time and effort to go the legislative route seems like a much better plan.
One thing still bothers me about HJR 19, however. Climate contrarians often pull out their calculators and argue, “If Measure X is adopted, it will only save the Earth 0.07 °C of warming by the year 2100!!!” But even if those calculated values are right, arguments like these are based on the assumptions that 1) our first steps toward curbing emissions will be our last, and 2) nobody else in the world will do anything about curbing emissions. But then, if the United States doesn’t take some first steps, why would most of the rest of the world?
Climate change is a GLOBAL problem, and any one country’s action isn’t going to change the outcome much. Like it or not, most of the world is going to have to cooperate to make a big difference. An overly narrow “cost-benefit analysis” such as HJR 19 proposes, therefore, is going to entirely miss the point.