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As Long as We Remember...

February 5, 2013

Sneaky Ways to Control The Environment

Farrell Keough

“The most productive days of most legislative sessions are the last three or four,” [Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D)] told reporters… in Annapolis. Productive is most certainly in the eye of the beholder, but one must remember the impact of bureaucrats once new laws have been enacted.


Much has been made of Senate President Thomas V. ‘Mike’ Miller’s transportation proposals – including such things as a five cents per gallon tax on gasoline, “in conjunction with a 3 percent sales tax that would be applied statewide... Gov. Martin O’Malley and members of his administration have shown interest in seeing Miller’s proposal, but have stopped well short of endorsing it… Most [in the General Assembly] have talked about the legislation as nothing more than a conversation starter, forced by inaction from O’Malley’s office and an apparent unwillingness in the House to raise more taxes.”


But this is not where the real action on transportation issues will actually occur.


In 2009, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Act of 2009 (GGRA). The law requires the State to develop and implement a Plan… to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent from a 2006 baseline by 2020...




This draft Plan puts the State on track to achieve the 25 percent GHG reduction required by the law while also creating jobs and improving Maryland’s economy. The Plan also will help with other environmental priorities, including restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, improving air quality and other critical energy and national security issues.


On top of this, the Maryland Energy Administration also has an aggressive schedule -  “[t]he EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 sets targets to reduce both per capita energy consumption and per capita peak demand by 15 percent by the end of 2015 (based on a 2007 baseline).”  (Note – MDE wants a 25% reduction by 2035 and MEA wants a 15% by 2015!)


MEA is to work in conjunction with Maryland Department of Environment [MDE] to have a draft plan by the end of 2012, yet it is conspicuously missing, and there are no sounds of its completion by the end of this session. Might this be by design?


What is more disturbing, the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation [MDOT] has not been filled – this means that no one from Transportation, (not to mention our Representative or the public) can comment or provide input to this draft plan!


As many of you are aware, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson is leaving in February. As pointed out by Forbes, the EPA has been the worst regulatory agency ever seen by this nation.


Especially troubling are the “sue and settle” cases in which there is what Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Gregory Conko called a ‘tacit, wink wink, nudge nudge’ agreement between an agency’s professional staff and the plaintiffs. In other words, the professional staff may prefer a rule that is far harsher than the political appointees would permit, so they find an accommodating activist group to sue, and then agree to a settlement that compels the agency to write the harsher rule. A former senior Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official said that such “sue and settle” lawsuits are used skillfully by EPA staffers ‘to truncate substantive and procedural reviews’ and that the judicial deadlines that are part of settlements often result in the regulatory reviewers at OMB getting only a day or two to review significant, voluminous, complex rules. In this way, agency professional staff are [sic] able to subvert procedures that are supposed to be part of governmental checks and balances.”


One of the leading candidates to replace Ms. Jackson is [California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary] “Nichols [who] led the implementation of [Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006] AB32, California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law…  Under her leadership, California started a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (something some in Congress tried and failed to do), limited the amount of carbon that can be emitted from a tailpipe when fuel is burned and implemented new mpg standards for vehicles.”


Maryland often follows California’s lead in environmental regulation.  If Ms. Nichols is appointed EPA administrator, Maryland will not only have justification for further damaging regulations, but they will have an outline for such without the worry about its affects on the residents and business.


So, what came out of California to begin this exercise?


As the lead agency, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been charged with working with Regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to determine reasonable and achievable greenhouse gas targets to meet the goals of SB 375. The substantial undertaking started out as a collaborative process but it has turned into a disaster for the economy.


In Northern California, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, modeled their most aggressive target at 12 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2035. The MTC highlighted that the most aggressive targets are "not considered attainable by any stretch of the imagination." Despite this warning, CARB’s suggested target for the Bay Area is 15 percent by 2035.


MTC concluded that a target of 12 percent (let alone 15 percent) would require gas prices of $9 per gallon to encourage less driving.


Similarly, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) evaluated significant new transportation pricing policies to meet the SB 375 targets. These include congestion pricing for the region’s major freeways, with tolls ranging from 10 to 25 cents per mile; a general miles-traveled charge of 1 to 3 cents per mile; increased off-street parking charges at employment centers; and additional subsidies to transit fares. Overall, annual travel costs could skyrocket 460 percent to meet these standards. This will have severe effects on consumers and local manufacturers already struggling to compete in California.


The CARB targets also count on a poor economy and lost jobs as a tool to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. According to MTC’s analysis, forecasting and planning for 180,000 fewer jobs and less economic growth could result in 5 percent emission reductions. It’s hard to tell from the analysis whether that is a goal that CARB wants to achieve or just a bad situation that they can use to their advantage. For the more than 630,000 workers who have lost their manufacturing jobs over the last decade, they’d be a lot more comfortable with a policy that actually worked to increase high wage jobs.


As noted above, the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Act of 2009 (GGRA) calls for a 25% reduction by 2020 – not the 12-15% reduction by 2035. Couple this with the Maryland Energy Administration goal of 15% by 2015 and you have the makings of a crashing economy.


Oh, and don’t expect to see such an analysis in the newspapers until after the damage is done.



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