Environmentalism under fire
The rhetoric about environmental controls killing jobs is getting louder and louder
Jun 2nd 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition
ISN’T it odd, asks Henry Waxman, a Democratic congressman from California, how the same Republicans who make such a fuss about abortion do not seem to care if the unborn are poisoned by toxic chemicals such as mercury? Isn’t it strange, Republicans retort, that people like Mr Waxman, who profess to care about working Americans, cheer on bureaucrats determined to smother business and destroy jobs? It may be hard to discern amid the melodramatic rhetoric, but the two sides are talking about the Environmental Protection Agency, and the various new rules it has in the works to curb pollution. Besides the endless toing and froing about government spending, it has become the most fiercely debated topic in Congress.
来自加州的民主党议员Henry Waxman称，反对堕胎并对此大作文章的共和党人似乎并不担忧未出生的胎儿是否会受到例如水银这样的有毒物质的毒害；共和党则声称，像Mr Waxman这样宣称关心美国人就业问题却为誓要抑制美国企业成长减少就业的官僚们呐喊助威。我们似乎很难从这些夸张的言论中辨别事非，不过，民主党和共和党争论的对像都是美国环保局以及环保局正在起草的各类污染管制法规。继关于政府开支没完没了的争论之后，环境污染管制成了国会又一激烈争论的对象。
As soon as they took control of the House of Representatives in January, Republicans began summoning Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, and several of her underlings to answer questions about their job-killing ways. Fred Upton, the head of the committee responsible for energy and environmental regulation, joked that she would be on Capitol Hill so often she would need her own parking space.
1月，共和党刚接管众议院就随即召集了环保局主管Lisa Jackson以及她的几位下属，询问关于环保局制定的“扼杀就业”的各种环保措施。能源和环境管制委员会主席Fred Upton说，Lisa Jackson去国会的次数频繁到几乎要单独给她安排一个车位。
The Republicans’ chief concern is the EPA’s authority, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2007, to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases. But more broadly they worry that the EPA is constantly tightening restrictions on pollution, at ever higher cost to business but with diminishing returns in terms of public health. They point to a slew of new rules about industrial boilers, cooling water at power plants, the disposal of coal ash, and emissions of mercury, ozone and other chemicals from smokestacks, which cumulatively, they say, will have a crippling effect on power generation and other industries. “Even God,” says Joe Barton, a Republican congressman, “couldn’t meet some of the ozone standards.”
Mr Barton is among the many Republicans in Congress who question whether global warming is caused by human activity, let alone whether the EPA should be trying to mitigate it by limiting emissions of greenhouse gases. The House has passed a measure that would rescind the EPA’s authority to do so, although it was blocked in the Senate, which the Democrats still control. The Republican leadership in the House has accused the administration of plotting to raise the price of energy through onerous regulation, in an effort to promote otherwise uncompetitive green technologies. It wants the EPA to give more weight to the impact on the economy and jobs when drawing up future rules.
Republicans outside Congress are warming to the theme. In late May Chris Christie, the much-feted governor of New Jersey, withdrew his state from a regional pact to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants. Several prominent Republican candidates for president have recanted past support for curbs on greenhouse gases. One of them, Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, says the EPA should be abolished altogether and an “environmental solutions agency” more sympathetic to business set up in its stead.
国会之外的共和党人也在积极参与这次争论，5月下旬，备受称赞的新泽西州州长Chris Christie 宣布新泽西退出旨在降低发电厂温室气体排放的一份区域协定。几位卓越的共和党总统候选人也已宣布不再支持对温室气体排放进行管制，前众议院发言人Newt Gingrich就是其中之一。他认为，应该撤销环保局，建立一个企业友好型的 “环境保护方案机构”来取代。
EPA officials appear baffled by this barrage of hostility. All the regulations they are promulgating, they point out, are based on laws passed by Congress, usually on a bipartisan basis. The Clean Air Act, for example, which is the basis of the EPA’s proposed regulation of greenhouse gases, was signed by Richard Nixon, and strengthened with the support of George Bush senior, both Republicans. The agency, they say, already conducts cost-benefit analyses of all important regulations, in addition to submitting them for expert review and public comment. Every dollar spent on pollution controls mandated by the Clean Air Act, including the ozone restrictions that Mr Barton is complaining about, will bring $30 in benefits to public health, the EPA reckons.
Under Mrs Jackson many of the most significant new rules are also being subjected to a separate review of the impact on jobs; though since onerous environmental restrictions can be labour-intensive, that is not always a good measure of the overall economic benefit. Moreover, the EPA is producing so many regulations at once in part because it is legally bound to. One of the rules the Republicans are complaining about, regarding mercury, arsenic and other toxic chemicals released by power plants, has been in the works for over 20 years. The EPA’s original regulations on the subject were thrown out by the courts as too lax. Anyway, so a combative official told her Republican interrogators earlier this year, complaints about the toll on business of pollution controls are almost always wildly exaggerated.
Yet the EPA is clearly stung by the criticism. The White House recently announced that the agency had scrapped a rule requiring leaks of dairy products to be treated as oil spills, as part of a government-wide review of red tape that may be impeding economic growth. It is now considering revisions to a further 31 regulations. It has also delayed the implementation of the new regulations concerning industrial boilers, after loud complaints from the businesses affected. And it seems in no hurry to use its authority over greenhouse gases, settling instead for a lengthy rule-drafting period that could forestall the imposition of any restrictions until after next year’s elections.
That is in part, presumably, because at the mid-terms last year the Republicans succeeded in portraying the Democrats’ plans to restrict emissions via a cap-and-trade scheme as an all-out assault on the economy, to great effect. John Shimkus, another Republican congressman, says Republicans will benefit again if environmental regulation remains a fraught issue next year. But Democrats like Mr Waxman argue that the Republicans are reading too much into their victory last year. Voters may put their immediate economic concerns ahead of more amorphous worries about global warming in the wake of the recession, he says, but they are still not willing to tolerate a broader assault on regulations that protect public health.
部分原因可能是，去年的中期选举中，共和党将民主党通过设立排放上限并对减少排放的企业给予经济奖励的方式限制温室气体排放的计划成功地描述成了“竭尽所能阻挠经济发展”。共和党议员John Shimkus说，如果环境管制问题明年仍然充满争议的话，共和党则会从中获益。Mr Waxman等民主党人则认为，共和党高估了他们去年的胜利。尽管经历经济衰退之后，比较于交错复杂的全球变暖问题，选民更倾向于关注当前经济问题；即使如此，选民仍然不会容忍对保护公共健康法规的大规模的抨击。
In short, both the Democrats and the Republicans think they have found a winning theme in the other party’s environmental policies. And they may both, in fact, be right. Most polling suggests that the environment is not a critical issue in the eyes of many voters. But talking about it is a great way to fire up activists and donors on both sides.