AGs push back against EPA 'environmental justice' rule, say it will increase energy costs

Twelve attorneys general have submitted comments to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan expressing concerns about a new proposed rule they argue will increase energy costs and risk Americans’ safety.

At issue is the EPA’s proposed rule, “Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs under Clean Air Act; Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention.” (87 Fed. Reg. 53,556), which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argues is another attempt by the Biden administration to revive an Obama-era “environmental justice” regulation. If implemented, it would far exceed the statutory authority of the EPA, the attorneys general argue, which was curtailed by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The rule would require a range of American facilities and industries to implement costly new processes to minimize “climate change risks,” which the EPA hasn’t proved will reduce such risks, they argue. Those impacted by the regulations would include petroleum refineries, chemical manufacturers, water and wastewater treatment systems, chemical and petroleum wholesalers and terminals, food manufacturers, packing plants, cold storage facilities, agricultural chemical distributors, midstream gas plants, among others.

The proposed rule would impose “burdensome new regulatory requirements that do not lead to improvements in preventing accidental releases or minimizing the consequences any such releases,” they write, and “would come at the cost of a greater regulatory burden without providing sufficient corresponding benefits.”

It would also cripple the U.S. energy industry and subsequently create a serious national security risk, the attorney generals from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, and led by Oklahoma, argue.

Worse still, another requirement would jeopardize Americans’ safety, they argue, because it requires certain facilities to publicly disclose information about specific locations of dangerous chemicals. This would only expose Americans to “risks of intentional releases by bad actors,” they write. “There is an inherent security risk in requiring public disclosure of information of sensitive information about chemical facilities without protections sufficient to mitigate that risk.”

The EPA has offered no evidence that imposing additional regulations “would have any effect on the number of chemical accidents that occur at the regulated entities,” they say. Instead, it “would increase costs and add onerous reporting requirements on the regulated facilities.”

Several commenters offered support for the rule change during the 2019 reconsideration comment period, but none provided information to support security concerns. The AG’s argue the Biden administration is revisiting the same “security shortcomings we warned about” before.

They aren’t alone. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also has been pushing back against EPA overreach in the Permian Basin, and supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia v. EPA in June. He said it correctly ruled to restrain the EPA when the agency has attempted to impose costly regulations without input from Congress.

Abbott said the ruling was “a victory against an out-of-control administration” as Americans were grappling with “skyrocketing energy costs due to expensive federal regulations that threaten our energy industry. President Biden cannot keep attacking the energy industry and the hardworking men and women who power our nation."

And while other states continue to be hamstrung by federal regulations, Texas continues to lead the U.S. in oil and natural gas production and job creation. Such a rule would stifle that growth, Abbott said.

Oil & Gas Workers Association Board Member Richard Welch told The Center Square a so-called “environmental justice” rule would devastate the economy, drive fuel prices up and hamper production at refineries that are already producing at capacity and under the strictest regulations already.

The rule isn’t about “justice,” he argues, but is “simply a ‘strong arm’ of an already weaponized EPA aimed at suffocating the already over-regulated oil and gas industry.”

Welch also says the administration doesn’t regulate the wind, solar and electric vehicle industries to the extent that it regulates the oil and natural gas industry. These industries also receive significant subsidies from the federal government while the harvesting of resources and production to create so-called green energy “causes significant harm to the environment,” he added.

He also said the U.S. oil and gas industry “remains confident in the AGs commitment to protecting it from ongoing federal overreach” and the Texas oil and natural gas industry “remains confident in the efforts of AG Paxton and Gov. Abbott to ensure Texas remains the oil and gas powerhouse that fuels America and the world.”

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