Friday, October 1, 2010

The EPA's Showdown in Texas

In May of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency alleged that Texas was not meeting the expectations set forth by the Clean Air Act, so the federal agency would take over permitting and licensing for the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, the Clean Air Act is 40 year old legislation that is meant to address public health concerns and has nothing to do with the deterrence of global warming, so it is suspect that the EPA is using it as justification to regulate carbon output.

But the state of Texas is prepared to fight tooth and nail to preserve its right to regulate the emissions of its vast energy industry. And they have good reason to do so. As Peggy Venable of the Washington Times notes, “shoehorning greenhouse gases into that 40-year-old law [the Clean Air Act] would force churches, schools, warehouses, commercial kitchens and other sources to obtain costly and time-consuming permits. It would grind the economy to a halt.” Naturally, the EPA wants to ease the friction for Texans, so they have been willing to apply a “tailoring rule” to “reduce the number of regulated sources.”

But for Texas, that just isn’t good enough. In the event that you’ve never heard of the Alamo, suffice it to say that we Texans are pretty big on taking a stand where matters of principle are concerned, and we know that what the EPA is trying to do just ain’t right.

Federal law does not give the federal government the right to regulate greenhouse gases, so the addressing of such issues is left to each state respectively, per the Tenth Amendment. Therefore, the imposition of federal oversight in Texas’ energy industry is a direct violation of its Constitutional right.

Beyond this fact, dramatic reductions in pollutants have taken place throughout the last decade, making it quite apparent that Texas is doing a terrific job meeting its stated obligations as declared by the Clean Air Act. And as far as those carbon emissions that the EPA is so eager to consider pollutants, Peggy Venable goes on to address their concerns on that matter, too:

According to Department of Energy and EPA data, since 2000, Texas' carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel usage have fallen more than those of almost any other state and every country except Germany as a result of our policies to foster renewable energy, make the electricity market more competitive and efficient, and improve our environment.

So even in regard to the greenhouse gases that are not addressed in the Clean Air Act, Texas is still way ahead of the curve. The EPA could be focusing of something else and addressing real problems rather than fabricating them. So why is this administration pressing Texas in an effort to take over its energy regulation?

Certainly, considerable revenue could be obtained by forcing energy companies to purchase licenses. And sure, Texas would be the biggest cash cow as it will require more licenses than any other state. But there’s an allegorical significance that makes the Texas vs. EPA showdown particularly interesting.

The EPA’s recent power-grab closely resembles the shenanigans of Barack Obama’s administration, which has exceeded the bounds of its federal authority to impose oversight upon all sectors of American production via makeshift and erratic legislation.

And Texas is representative of the kind of place that Americans have always gone to get away from that sort of thing, dating back to frontiersman and politician Davy Crockett who, when he became tired of the politics of Andrew Jackson’s cronies in Tennessee, left his political career and took up residence in the state after allegedly telling them, “You can all go to Hell, I’m going to Texas.” He viewed Texas as a land of opportunity, free of the bureaucratic yokes that were found elsewhere. And today, American families and American businesses flock to Texas for the exact same reason. Texas has no state income tax, low cost of living, thriving job markets, and a lot of room to grow.

And we Texans like it that way, so we will not back down. If the EPA and this administration insist, we and our leaders are more than willing to make our state the venue where Americans will see a political fight of epic proportions.

This figurative bout is bound to be a manifestation of the struggles between liberalism and conservatism, authoritarianism and republicanism; a battle royal for the very soul of our country. And perhaps we can declare, for good and all, whether we want to be ruled by kings who can change our laws as they please to impose their will, or whether we want to live as free men whose laws protect us from such tyranny.

William Sullivan

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