EPA Admits Air Pollution Data Errors, Texas Gets No Extra Time to Comply with Regulations Based on That Data

The EPA just revealed revisions to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that they say will give more flexibility to states for implementation of the rule. I applaud the EPA for finally admitting its errors in calculations and flawed methodology, but I am not sure about the motives behind this move. The EPA’s admission that they have to go back and make “technical corrections” to CSAPR highlights that the original rule was based on flawed math.

The EPA was in a rush to implement these rules and failed to consider the sweeping job loss that would result. There was a complete lack of consideration for the possibility that the information upon which the rule was based may have, in fact, been inaccurate. Now the EPA is citing incorrect assumptions for the “technical corrections.” Well, these “technical corrections” will do little to put to rest the fears of Texans who will potentially be out of work as a result of this rule.

The changes are very minimal, and they have only happened because the EPA was repeatedly called out for faulty calculations. But what is most troubling is that the changes do nothing to reduce the time crunch that Texas is under in order to attempt to comply with the rule by January 2012. With such an unrealistic timeframe to comply, jobs will likely still be lost. Donna Nelson, the Chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission remarked that she “would be thrilled if they were to change their position or to give Texas the due process they were required to do under law, [but] it looks like they are tinkering around the edges, not making big changes.”

Luminant’s Allan Koenig stated that the CSAPR emission limits and the actual emissions were “so far apart on the allowances that the increase in emission allowances would have to be quite significantly higher for us not to make major changes to the operation in order to comply. This would be in the order of tens of thousands versus thousands of tons more in emission allowances.” The modifications call for nowhere near that scale of adjustment.

I believe it is important to admit when one has made a mistake. But admitting a mistake without taking steps to fix the problem is like a mechanic telling you that your car needs new brakes and sending you off on the road. Without new brakes, your car will inevitably crash. Without significant revisions to this rule, the economy of Texas will falter. The clock is ticking for the 500 employees of Luminant who face unemployment. Though the EPA is now stating that these modifications are a result of incorrect industry-submitted data, in reality the EPA drafted the original rule using data they collected for other regulations, including the acid rain program and the clean air interstate rule. This is further evidence of a larger problem resulting from the Agency’s use of proprietary models and a refusal to disclose its methodology to the public.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement Thursday, “by making the minor changes announced today, the Obama administration effectively concedes that its rules were flawed — but inexplicably refuses to resolve the real defects. The EPA has effectively eliminated any opportunity for notice and comment that might allow mistakes to be caught that may have been missed during the drafting process.”

I am baffled that an organization as large as the EPA could make such a mistake and fail to notice it until they were called out on it so many times. It makes one wonder how many other mistakes slipped under the table during the regulation-making process. Furthermore, this announcement provides even more justification to re-evaluate the EPA’s other rule-makings and ensure that regulations that will cost jobs are, at a minimum, thoroughly reviewed and held to the highest level of accountability.

While I am suspect of the EPA’s motives behind this revision, at least there is some progress and some admittance of wrongdoing. But this rule is not just about math or calculations. It’s about the livelihood of Texans and hardworking Americans across the country. It’s about whether or not employees like those that work at Luminant’s plants will be able to feed their families.

The last thing this Administration needs is additional job loss resulting from regulations that it has imposed, not to mention a rise in electricity costs for customers. The Administration should promote job growth instead of implementing arbitrary rules that will cut thousands of jobs with little, if any, benefit to the public. It’s time for the EPA and the Administration to stand up and do the right thing for Texans and give our economy the boost it needs

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