Regulatory Climate Change

 

I work for a municipal utility that operates a small power plant in Missouri. Built in 1928, the plant houses nine diesel/natural gas generators, the oldest of which is a 1946 model (see video below). The plant served as the city’s primary source of power up till the 1980s when it became more economical to contract energy from larger plants. While they’re no longer the primary source of power for the city, they still serve a major role in fulfilling capacity and peaking needs for the city.

As part of my job, I handle the environmental compliance for the plant. Over the last decade, we’ve spent over $2 million to comply with Obama era EPA regulations. These engines run less than 75 hours each a year. Such a waste of money and time.

That brings me to Yesterday where I sat in on a regulatory primer that outlined the climate regulation goals of the Harris Biden administration. If you care about the economy and the environment, you should be very worried about what may happen over the next four years. The main thrust of their agenda is laid out in the recently released Climate 21 Project. Richard Epstein has written about it here as well. The Climate 21 Project is a blizzard of 100-day plans, executive orders, policy changes, task forces, and virtue signaling spread over 11 federal offices, agencies, and departments including the Department of Justice and Treasury. Some of its recommendations are for new subsidies and loans, new building and appliance efficiency standards, and more stringent fuel efficiency requirements for new cars. And as Mr. Epstein pointed out, there’s no data to be found. Odd for the people who claim to be the arbiters of #Science!

The worst about all of it? Most of these can be carried out by simple decree. Congress has abdicated its power to the point that whoever wins 270 electoral votes can turn the entire regulatory system on its head. This is unsustainable. How can businesses and industry be expected to operate efficiently if every four years a new administration can come in and kneecap them with new standards and regulations? This overreach will only lead to more waste and abuse with little environmental benefit. Jonah Goldberg likes to point out that “complexity is a subsidy“. The more complex and restrictive the regulations become, the more the big players will position themselves to get a bigger piece of that subsidy, all at the expense of the less fortunate. This is why we see major corporations arguing for a higher minimum wage or environmental regulations. They can shoulder the load that their smaller competitors can’t.

The unintended consequences of this will be great, as they are with such expansive central planning.

Congress must stand up and take back its legislative power and reduce the executive branch’s authority on such matters. I doubt there are enough spines and competence on capitol hill to do that.

Our 1928 Power Plant:

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  1. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Unless Trump pulls it out, closing that plant would probably be the economical course.  Worse is coming.  Read about Victoria state in Australia.  They are as crazy as the AOC wing of the Democrats.

    • #1
  2. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    And of course the $2 million in compliance costs was passed to the ratepayers.  

    Just curious:  were any of the Obama regs rolled back by the Trump Admin?

    • #2
  3. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    There should have been environmental exemptions for facilities like this one. 75 hours a year does not seem like much until you are experiencing a blackout. California, here we come.

    • #3
  4. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Preston Storm: The worst about all of it? Most of these can be carried out by simple decree. Congress has abdicated its power

    Good post. The fact that so much of the government’s power to regulate happens outside of the democratic process should frighten people on all sides of the political spectrum.

    Preston Storm: The unintended consequences of this will be great, as they are with such expansive central planning. 

    Although, when you can predict the bad things ahead of time, can we really say they are “unintended”?

    • #4
  5. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Preston Storm: The worst about all of it? Most of these can be carried out by simple decree. Congress has abdicated its power to the point that whoever wins 270 electoral votes can turn the entire regulatory system on its head. This is unsustainable. How can businesses and industry be expected to operate efficiently if every four years a new administration can come in and kneecap them with new standards and regulations?

    This is the crux of our modern life in America.

    This is what I have not understood about the Never Trumpers and Republicans who actively supported Biden. Do they not know this? How awful and expensive life will be with a Democratic Party cabinet?

    I am so frustrated with this recent election. The press and high mucky-mucks in the political parties do not understand what’s at stake in Washington’s going from red to blue.

    Great post. Thank you.

    I wish it could have been the centerpiece in the last election.

    The regulatory aspect of modern life is run by and controlled by the president’s cabinet members. It has been like a vacation having Republican cabinet.

    • #5
  6. Preston Storm Inactive
    Preston Storm
    @PrestonStorm

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    And of course the $2 million in compliance costs was passed to the ratepayers.

    Just curious: were any of the Obama regs rolled back by the Trump Admin?

    None of the ones we fall under.

    • #6
  7. Preston Storm Inactive
    Preston Storm
    @PrestonStorm

    JoelB (View Comment):

    There should have been environmental exemptions for facilities like this one. 75 hours a year does not seem like much until you are experiencing a blackout. California, here we come.

    50 years ago these units would have ran 1000’s of hours a year. There’s two standards for these: emergency and non-emergency. Early on we upgraded the 4 newest units to non-emergency which required catalytic converters and regular performance testing. A couple years ago we did the other 5. Non-emergency allows us to run them for any reason (as long as we stay inside certain parameters). Emergency only means we can only run them during emergencies and less than 100 hours a year for maintenance/testing.

    Being designated as emergency only however doesn’t allow us to use them for our capacity needs, therefore we either needed to upgrade or buy from somewhere else. The upgrades were still the most economical option.

    • #7
  8. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Great video!

    • #8
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Preston Storm: Congress has abdicated its power to the point that whoever wins 270 electoral votes can turn the entire regulatory system on its head.

    And to this I would add the states as well. The states’ legislatures have traded a few federal dollars for control too.

    The only two industries I can think of that are relatively immune to the federal regulations controlled by the president’s cabinet are the media (the press) and big tech.

    • #9
  10. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Preston Storm: Congress has abdicated its power to the point that whoever wins 270 electoral votes can turn the entire regulatory system on its head.

    And to this I would add the states as well. The states’ legislatures have traded a few federal dollars for control too.

    The only two industries I can think of that are relatively immune to the federal regulations controlled by the president’s cabinet are the media (the press) and big tech.

    The highlighted sentence is strangely troubling in the light of current events.

    • #10
  11. Preston Storm Inactive
    Preston Storm
    @PrestonStorm

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Great video!

    Thank you! Just got it done this year! I think the narrator, director, and writer did a fantastic job 😉

    • #11
  12. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Nice post Preston. Thanks. The rule-making ability of the regulatory/administrative state is a real problem. In my eyes, it’s also unconstitutional as it usurps the role of the legislature.

    • #12
  13. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    A Republican President is only protection against egregious new rules.  Enforcement is still in the hands of the permanent bureaucracy. 

    One trick to expand power is to arrange to be sued by an activist group in front of a friendly federal judge allegedly for not doing something that the agency really does not have the authority to do. Then the agency surrenders in court–gosh darn it, you win, we should have regulated this and that (even though Congress did not give us that authority) so, judge you’d best go ahead and order us to do this and that on account of we just lost this case.  The ultimate victim (the industry of activity newly regulated) has no standing in the litigation until the actual regulating starts then it’s back to court de novo with the presumption of legality in the hands of the regulators.

    I expect to see that a lot in the next couple of years along with much else to enshrine the asininity of the greenies in the law.

    • #13
  14. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Preston Storm:

    Congress must stand up and take back its legislative power and reduce the executive branch’s authority on such matters. I doubt there are enough spines and competence on capitol hill to do that.

     

    Never underestimate the power of lazy.    In particular among Republican Congress creatures.    They  have maneuvered themselves into a position where they are responsible for little but free to grouse about much.  

    Meanwhile, into the power vacuum steps the institutions  least accountable to we, the people – the bureaucracy and the judiciary.   Talk about subverting the will of the founders.

    • #14
  15. J Ro Member
    J Ro
    @JRo

    Preston Storm (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Great video!

    Thank you! Just got it done this year! I think the narrator, director, and writer did a fantastic job 😉

    Loved seeing the old machinery kept in fine condition. Gave me flashbacks of a casual visit to the boiler room in a pre-nuke aircraft carrier. 

    • #15
  16. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    tigerlily (View Comment):
    it usurps the role of the legislature.

    Agreed … but usurpation kind’a assumes that power is being taken (1) from whom it rightfully belongs and (2) that the rightful owner is trying to keep it.   Congress has been actively trying to dodge it’s responsibilities for 75 years or more.

    • #16
  17. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Nice post Preston. Thanks. The rule-making ability of the regulatory/administrative state is a real problem. In my eyes, it’s also unconstitutional as it usurps the role of the legislature.

    I’d like to see the Legislatures take back some power by voting on Administrative rules. OK, let the “managerial/administrative experts” promulgate new rules but they should still be subject to legislative alterations or veto.

    • #17
  18. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    WI Con (View Comment):

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Nice post Preston. Thanks. The rule-making ability of the regulatory/administrative state is a real problem. In my eyes, it’s also unconstitutional as it usurps the role of the legislature.

    I’d like to see the Legislatures take back some power by voting on Administrative rules. OK, let the “managerial/administrative experts” promulgate new rules but they should still be subject to legislative alterations or veto.

    Yeah, I’d be fine with that.

    • #18
  19. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    A Republican President is only protection against egregious new rules. Enforcement is still in the hands of the permanent bureaucracy.

    One trick to expand power is to arrange to be sued by an activist group in front of a friendly federal judge allegedly for not doing something that the agency really does not have the authority to do. Then the agency surrenders in court–gosh darn it, you win, we should have regulated this and that (even though Congress did not give us that authority) so, judge you’d best go ahead and order us to do this and that on account of we just lost this case. The ultimate victim (the industry of activity newly regulated) has no standing in the litigation until the actual regulating starts then it’s back to court de novo with the presumption of legality in the hands of the regulators.

    I expect to see that a lot in the next couple of years along with much else to enshrine the asininity of the greenies in the law.

    I “liked” not because I like the trend but because you are correct that agency personnel have been doing this for decades to expand their power, and thus with a friendly presidential administration, they are likely to expand the technique. 

    • #19
  20. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Preston,

    There is no reason in this world to hyper-regulate this electric generation plant into oblivion. People can be racist and sexist but there are other kinds of prejudice in the world. Blanket attacks on fossil fuel energy production is a kind of energy production bigotry. Solar is a fabulous waste of money. Your natural gas burning, catalytic converter equipped generators are a near negligible threat for emissions. Of course, since the early 2000s, there is ample confirmed real scientific evidence that global warming is not happening. So it is much ado about nothing.

    I think this is all about a childish coastal elite fear of ordinary people. If the Tesla Model 3 missed its price point by $10,000, is about as self-driving as a ballistic missile, and if wrecked will burn with poisonous fumes for 3 days, that’s no reason not to buy one. The coastal elite isn’t scientific, knows nothing about the environment, and are the most wasteful generation this country has ever seen. By putting somebody else down as a deplorable who uses fossil fuels they can go on deluding themselves that what they are pushing makes any sense at all.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #20
  21. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Thanks Preston!  I work for a slightly larger utility, but don’t do anything useful like help generate power or fix outages.  Love seeing the old tech still in use.  Our utility has a lot of hydro sites and many of them are old, and still have the old generators around on display, in some places.

    The regs around this stuff are significant.  You can’t see it in your power bill but you are being charged for it.  The compliance costs are enormous.  In many cases, it’s what it should be, it’s what regulations should be about.  In other cases, its becoming punitive, and now around carbon fueled anything, even if it’s super clean, like natural gas.

    • #21
  22. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    A Republican President is only protection against egregious new rules. Enforcement is still in the hands of the permanent bureaucracy.

    One trick to expand power is to arrange to be sued by an activist group in front of a friendly federal judge allegedly for not doing something that the agency really does not have the authority to do. Then the agency surrenders in court–gosh darn it, you win, we should have regulated this and that (even though Congress did not give us that authority) so, judge you’d best go ahead and order us to do this and that on account of we just lost this case. The ultimate victim (the industry of activity newly regulated) has no standing in the litigation until the actual regulating starts then it’s back to court de novo with the presumption of legality in the hands of the regulators.

    I expect to see that a lot in the next couple of years along with much else to enshrine the asininity of the greenies in the law.

    That has been a standard tactic in housing planning in California for years.  “Public interest” law firms are subsidized by developers of Section 8 housing.  The law firm sues the city for not having enough “affordable housing.”  The judge rules that the suit has merit.  The legislature agrees and awards the law firm its costs.  The city has to comply and a couple of years later, the cycle repeats.

    • #22