For over 150 years, our nation’s economy has thrived off of an efficient energy system that has provided for our basic needs. From the coal that powered the first steam engines to the petroleum that breathed life into automobiles, our forefathers have built on the technologies that have come from the demand of consumers and led to the innovations that we see today. Each generation’s industry has evolved and the energy that fuels it has become cleaner and more effective. But this progress remained sustainable due to its ability to develop gradually and according to the demands of a free market.
Over the past three years, this responsible flow of progress and business development has come under attack by an administration that seeks total control over the private interests of our nation’s small businesses and job creators. Through unprecedented power granted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Obama administration has sought to impose arbitrary guidelines on every entity that uses energy to create its products. This started gradually, with new mandates over carbon dioxide emissions, and now – three years later – has coalesced into a nightmare of complicated standards which have forced thousands of small businesses to devote time, money, and massive cuts to their production in order to comply with new regulations.
One of the affected industries that has a strong presence in my home state of North Carolina is forest products. Forestry, wood products, and pulp and paper operations account for more than 41,000 jobs and over $2 billion in annual income in our state. Imagine if any of those jobs were threatened simply because of a process gone wrong.
As our state’s unemployment rate hovers at 10 percent – well above the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent – now more than ever North Carolina needs to grow the number of good-paying jobs that manufacturing provides. Unfortunately, this administration’s tendency to regulate job-sustaining industries into the ground is making it increasingly difficult for us to do so in this state and across the country.
Last March, the EPA was rushed to issue a set of regulations – known as the Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rules – which set emission limits for boilers used in manufacturing facilities, municipal power plants, hospitals, universities, and any other facility. EPA officials have estimated that the capital cost of implementing these rules will be $9.5 billion, but a recent study prepared by IHS Global Insight puts the figure at $20 billion. The precise cost of these stringent rules may still be unknown, but they will undoubtedly impose significant new regulatory costs on employers and small businesses that could lead to factory closures and job losses.
Because they were hurried by the court system to issue the final rules, the EPA admitted that the resulting rules were inadequate and delayed implementation while it reconsidered them. The rules were re-proposed in November and are expected to be finalized in the coming months.
Despite all of that, last month U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman ruled that the March 2011 regulations were to take effect immediately, putting those affected in a difficult position: comply with an old set of rules, or gamble by planning for compliance with the pending set of regulations that would override the previous set.
Here in the House of Representatives, we are taking action to protect American businesses and job creators from this unnecessary government interference. In October, we passed the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 (H.R.2250), which I co-sponsored and was included in the payroll tax holiday extension bill that passed the House in December. This bill directs the EPA to re-propose new, less harmful rules within 15 months and extends compliance time from three to five years, giving businesses more time to prepare, sustain jobs, and prosper.
EPA mandates are driving up the cost of production and causing greater pain throughout our economy. We need to balance our energy and environmental concerns in ways that will not punish job creators and this legislation is a step in the right direction. This is solid, bipartisan legislation that would provide the certainty businesses need to plan investments for compliance as well as for future growth and modernizations to remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.
To be clear, I support clean air and realistic air quality standards. However, I also believe that good legislation can serve the people by protecting the environment and public health while promoting economic growth and stability.
We need to balance our energy and environmental concerns in ways that will not punish job creators. This starts by rolling back the predatory regulations imposed by the EPA, and by doing so, we will find ourselves moving in the right direction toward a more efficient, environmentally-friendly road to prosperity.
Rep. Ellmers, a registered nurse for over 21 years, was recently appointed to the joint conference committee tasked with negotiating the payroll tax holiday extension. She is serving her first term as U.S. Congresswoman representing North Carolina’s second district in the House of Representatives.
As found on The Hill