By HOPPY KERCHEVAL
When Lisa Jackson announced (Dec. 27) that she was stepping down as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, she said she was confident that the “ship is sailing in the right direction.”
Well, it’s a good thing it’s a wind-powered ship and not one that relies on more traditional energy sources.
Jackson’s four years at the EPA have been disastrous for the coal industry, and generally threatening to carbon-based fuels. She and her agency have tried their best to steer the country away from coal, all the while extending the agency’s authority to new heights.
Scott Segal with Bracewell and Giuliani, a firm that represents utilities that use coal, is quoted as saying that Jackson “presided over some of the most expensive and controversial rules in the agency’s history.”
United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts had a more blunt assessment during an appearance earlier this year on Metronews Talkline:
“The Navy SEALS shot Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington,” Roberts said.
Jackson and her cohorts, with the blessing of President Obama, managed the agency like imperial bureaucrats, piling up rules and regulations with no regard for the limits of administrative power or the cost of their decrees.
Early on in the Obama Administration, Congress decided not to pass a cap-and-trade bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The people’s elected representatives worried the convoluted system was too expensive and unlikely to have a significant impact on climate change.
Undeterred, Jackson took it upon herself to impose the standards administratively, making the rules so tight that it’s virtually impossible to build a coal-fired power plant in the future.
It was under Lisa Jackson that the Clean Air Act was interpreted to go beyond air pollution and also apply to the weather.
Then there were the wildly expensive new mercury rules for power plants, all 1,117 pages of them, that are supposed to save lives and make everyone healthier. The Wall Street Journal reported that 99.99 percent of the purported health benefits came from double-counting pollution reductions that current rules already address.
In her spare time Jackson made it harder for coal operators to get mine permits, especially for mountaintop removal. When Arch Coal fought back over the EPA’s decision to revoke a permit for the Spruce #1 mine in Logan County, a judge ruled in Arch’s favor, calling the EPA’s logic “magical thinking.”
Meantime, Jackson maintained a bureaucratic smugness. Even West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall, who has a history of working with the EPA, found himself shut out.
President Obama, in accepting Jackson’s resignation, said the EPA had made “historic progress.” That, however, depends on your definition of the word “progress.”
The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign reports that in the last three years, no ground has been broken for any new coal-fired power plants, 13 proposed coal plants have been abandoned and 126 plants have announced they are shutting down.
If that’s a ship sailing in the right direction, then America will have to be satisfied with an energy policy that’s wildly off course.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.