Stop the EPA’s war on North Carolina

Aug. 24, 2014 @ 12:18 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency is on a cross-country roadshow this summer to sell its newest mandate, which will cut the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent. The agency’s and the Obama administration's sales pitch is simple: This will usher in a “cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous future.”

The slick marketing campaign isn’t working. The more people learn about the mandate, the more they oppose it -- especially here in North Carolina.

That’s the conclusion of a new survey of registered voters in North Carolina commissioned by the American Energy Alliance. According to the survey, 59 percent of our state supports the regulations when hearing about them for the first time -- who doesn’t love Mother Earth? When they hear both the pros and the cons, however, majority support evaporates.

The first thing to know is that the mandate forces North Carolina to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent -- 10 points higher than the national average. Although the national target is 30 percent, the Obama administration has assigned different reduction targets to each state. Ours is one of the highest in the country.

This will unavoidably hurt North Carolina’s ability to compete for jobs. By forcing us to cut our carbon dioxide emissions more than others, the mandate will increase our electricity prices -- especially for businesses -- more than other states. This will raise the cost of doing business here relative to our competitors, making it increasingly difficult to convince job creators to open up shop here rather than somewhere cheaper.

A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce demonstrated this economic reality by analyzing a regulation similar to the EPA’s. North Carolina and our neighboring states --with our generally higher reliance upon coal -- will be among the hardest-hit in the country. We could lose an average of 60,000 jobs every year from now until 2030, while sacrificing $10.5 billion annually in economic growth.

This high economic cost makes sense when you consider that North Carolina gets nearly half of its electricity from coal, the EPA regulation’s primary target. It won’t be cheap to transition to other energy sources, all of which are more expensive according to the federal government's data.

Still, this economic pain will be more than offset by the mandate’s environmental gains, right?

Wrong. In a global economy where jobs can easily be shipped overseas -- as our state’s vanishing furniture and textiles industries have made us painfully aware -- these EPA regulations may actually harm the environment.

Economists call it “leakage.” When costly regulations in environmentally conscious countries -- like the United States -- force jobs overseas, they often go to less environmentally friendly nations like China and India. The same goods are being produced, but with more air pollutants -- and fewer American jobs -- than before.

But suppose this doesn’t happen. Even then, the EPA’s own climate model -- its acronym is “MAGICC” -- forecasts that the new regulation will only prevent global temperatures from rising by 0.043 degrees Fahrenheit between now and 2100. Maybe this explains why the EPA refuses to discuss whether the regulation will improve the environment --not even magic can make it work.

No wonder North Carolinians’ initial support for the regulation quickly disappeared. We don’t want fewer jobs, slower growth, and more Washington control of our economy in exchange for an environment that’s almost exactly the same and possibly worse.

So where does our own Senator Kay Hagan stand on the EPA mandate? Speaking to the environmentalist League of Conservation Voters recently, Hagan said this type of regulation is “key” to protecting the environment. She’s also on record supporting a “price on greenhouse gas emissions” -- Washington speak for a carbon tax -- which is exactly what North Carolina might have to implement if the EPA mandate moves forward.

The last thing North Carolina needs is an environmental regulation that harms our economy without improving the environment. Senator Hagan has a choice: Stand with the EPA against North Carolina, or stand with North Carolina against the EPA. While she’s home this month for Congress’s August recess, she should let us know whose side she’s on.

Donald Bryson is Americans for Prosperity’s North Carolina deputy state director.