Texas AG says Obama, EPA need to cool it with regulations

John O'Brien Nov. 8, 2011, 3:10am


AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is wondering why the federal government isn't using his state's plan as a model for creating jobs.

Abbott penned a weekly column released Wednesday in which he says the Obama administration has instead chosen to pass burdensome regulations that will hamper business expansion.

"Since the President has repeatedly claimed that job creation is his administration's top priority, one would think the federal government would do all it could to keep the nation's job creation engine churning," Abbott wrote.

"Instead, the Obama administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have issued a slew of heavy-handed, overreaching and burdensome regulations that threaten the state's economy and job losses for hardworking Texans."

Abbott has challenged the federal government on a variety of issues. He entered his state in the multistate lawsuit brought against federal health care reform and is battling the EPA on other matters.

Last year, the EPA rejected Texas' flexible permits program that was launched in 1994. Abbott filed a petition for reconsideration with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

Texas' Flexible Permits Program was established in 1994 in an effort to "incentivize grandfathered operations to voluntarily enter into the state's air permitting and environmental regulation program."

Facilities that were exempted because of their grandfathered status agreed to submit to state regulation because the program offered them operational flexibility, Abbott said.

In exchange for emissions regulations, participants were authorized to allocate emissions on a facility-wide basis rather than by source point.

Abbott said the end result was a program that gave facilities greater flexibility and control but still reduced emissions and complied with all state health standards, as well as all applicable federal Clean Air Act requirements.

"Thanks to an effective, common-sense approach to regulation, the state's flexible permits program reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 60 percent and nitrous oxide emissions by 43 percent," Abbott wrote.

Abbott argues the EPA needed to issue the rejection of the plan within 18 months of its implementation but instead waited 15 years.

He has also challenged the EPA's attempt to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

"When Congress decided not to pass the President's controversial cap and trade law, the Obama administration simply decided to have the EPA limit greenhouse gases by issuing regulations," he wrote.

"Worse, while ignoring the regulations' sweeping impact and billion-dollar economic cost, the EPA did not adequately conduct its scientific review - a failure for which the EPA was recently criticized by its own inspector general."

Lastly, he says the EPA's cross-state air pollution rule threatens the state's electrical grid and could result in higher prices.

"Regulatory overreach by the EPA creates economic uncertainty and discourages employers from expanding their businesses, which exacerbates unemployment and stifles job creation," Abbott wrote.

"These draconian new federal regulations will require Texas employers to spend millions of dollars on regulatory compliance - rather than new employees - and threaten project delays, factory closures and job losses. With more than 14 million Americans out of work, the Administration should focus on fostering job creation, not unnecessary, burdensome regulations."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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