Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 4, 2011

New Joint Resolution from the Utah Legislature

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: ____________

LONG TITLE

General Description:
This joint resolution of the Legislature expresses opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of Greenhouse Gases without Congressional approval.

Highlighted Provisions:
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.

Special Clauses:
None

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.

 


Responses

  1. Hmm. A few thoughts.

    1. The point of granting regularory authority to various agencies is to bypass the often endless political maneuverings of Congress that often prevent meaningful action on important and immediate problems — such as pollution regulation. The EPA, by law — which means it has already passed through Congress — has the authority to regulate. They should regulate in accordance with the law. In the case of CO2, if Congress feels additional guidance is required, they need to provide it. In the meantime the EPA should move forward in my estimation — if for no other reason than to force the issue in Congress. If the EPA delays, Congress will do absolutely nothing. I bellieve there is solid precedence to this effect.

    2. I have indeed seen legislators and other contrarians make the claims that such-and-such action will only reduce global warming by some minute amount. I’m generally enthusiastic when the argument is put forth. Because in order to make the claim, they have to model the effect. So they trust the modeling to tell them, to a hundredth of a degree, what the effect of regulation will be, but tell us the models are nonsense in all other instances. So which is it? If you trust the model to tell you such-and-such action will result in .07 degree drop, then you must also trust it to tell you that no action will result in a 9 degree increase in the lifetime of your children. That fact is cause for emergency scale action, not half measures (such as cap-and-trade).

    3. Finally, I must disagree that the actions of any one country are meaningless. In particular, I think meaningufl action on the part of the United States would trigger a domino effect, breaking the logjam on this. Don’t forget about the feedbacks…🙂

    • Hi Rob,

      I have to admit that I’m sort of lukewarm in my opinion about what the EPA should do. It all boils down to what you think is the most politically savvy way to go about getting emissions standards, and what do I know about being politically savvy?

      When contrarians use the “0.07 degree” argument, however, they usually proffer it with some caveats. “Even if the IPCC’s models are correct…” and so on. So (at least usually) I wouldn’t say they are admitting anything by making these arguments.

      Finally, I think we completely agree about the “domino effect”. US action could be quite meaningful IF it spurs others to action.

  2. I should also add: If one accepts the science on climate change, then supporting this resolution is an irreconcilable position. Overwhelming evidence suggests very real risks of catastrophic impact in the lifetimes of our children. No action is simply not an option. In the absence of meaningul congressional action, the EPA must move forward with the most aggressive regulatory program possible.

    Lastly, on the point of economic impact. Considerable study suggests we have both the technology and economy to act meaningfully. Action by the EPA moves us forward, not backward. It forces more debate, more action. No action on the part of EPA is a license for Congress to sit it out entirely. We need this issue being debated in the halls of Congress. If EPA declines to follow the law and refuses to regulate, I fear this issue will not be debated in Congress for years to come.

    • Hi Rob,

      Rest assured that I don’t support this resolution. I just don’t think it’s as stupid as the last one.

  3. The clean air act has been pretty successful till now. Many of the same arguments were made in the 70’s that implementing automobile pollution measures would ruin the economy and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go back to smoggy days of yesteryear.

    As far as economics, it’s always the same argument: IBM thought that the market for PC’s would never surface because households would never suffer the expense of a new major appliance. Germans thought that reunification would sent their economy into recession. Americans still believe that globalization has created a net decrease of jobs at home (current recession excepted) while the number of net jobs, especially higher end jobs, increased over the last several decades. etc. etc.

    The truth is that new markets, whether spontaneous or legislated have always created new economic opportunities. I say let the EPA do their job and let the Americans reap the benefits, including the economic benefits. Too bad that Utahn’s can’t see it that way.

  4. […] post: New Joint Resolution from the Utah Legislature « Anti-Climate … This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged action-isn, argument, claims, contrarians, […]


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