Senator Lisa Murkowski warned Alaskans of the widespread economic consequences of using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulemaking to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking before a sold out RDC breakfast meeting in April, Murkowski noted 15 species in Alaska are currently listed under the ESA and 12 more are petitioned for listing. She said there is widespread concern across Alaska of the impacts these listings will have on communities and families. She also warned that lawsuits on every perceived impact to endangered species are being filed against projects across the state in virtually every resource development sector.
“It is not just Alaska, but across the country,” Murkowski warned. “The Center for Biological Diversity is engaged in litigation to add 892 species to the ESA. The law is being abused by environmental groups as a sledge hammer for purposes that were never envisioned.” She said the primary misuse is through litigation, which results in delays, higher costs and uncertainty for business and industries. “The flood of litigation has broken the act and has reduced the government’s ability to protect species. Lawsuits are so routine that staff spends more time on litigation than on saving species.”
Murkowski said the federal government may further extend its overreach and use the ESA to control emissions, which was never the intention of Congress. She warned that virtually anyone emitting greenhouse gases could be hooked into act. “When polar bear critical habitat encompasses 200,000 square miles of the Arctic, and carbon emissions are blamed for destruction of sea ice, any agency action that results in any activity that emits carbon, in theory, requires consultation,” Murkowski said. “The secretary could require that it not emit carbon in such a way so as not to destroy critical habitat.”
Murkowski also spoke to the EPA’s efforts to pursue new climate change regulations. “When I think of threats to our state and our ability to be independent and grow our economy, I can’t think of a anything I find more onerous than the actions of the EPA right now as they work to implement these regulations under the Clean Air Act. The act is the worst option for meeting that challenge. It was never meant to be applied to greenhouse gases.”
The senator said the scope of the regulations is breathtaking. According to EPA, a total of six million entities would be captured at the Clean Air Act’s existing threshold. The regulations would apply to 400 times more businesses, facilities and farms than are regulated today. The regulations would first target energy producers and energy intensive businesses. Smaller emitters such as office buildings and restaurants will face regulation later.
If Congress allows EPA to proceed, there will be severe economic consequences for Alaska and the nation, Murkowski warned. She said the climate regulations will increase prices for energy, goods and services, restrict businesses abilities to pursue new economic development and cause significant job losses. “Why would manufacturing operations stay here in America? Why would they not just move overseas?” the senator asked.
EPA climate regulations would be triggered when businesses build new facilities or modify existing ones, Murkowski noted. “Instead of growing their operations, businesses may choose to do nothing at all – no expansion, no development,” she said. “Private investment that leads to new job growth and economic development will be frozen. Regulations will be tremendously expensive, whether they are effective or ineffective.”
In Alaska, hundreds of facilities would be subjected to the regulations, not just energy producers. Any building over 65,000 square feet would be regulated for carbon emissions. Murkowski warned the regulations could even jeopardize the proposed gas pipeline.
“The EPA should not be setting climate policy, it should be left to the Congress,” Murkowski concluded. She noted the government is also moving to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Water Act.
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