Erika Johnsen
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Ugh. Upon reading that the EPA is going to be "busy" in 2012, I shuddered a bit. When viewed through the lens of jobs and the economy, it seems that EPA regulations are almost unfailingly a zero-sum game. The GOP often targets the EPA as one of the greatest job-killers ever spawned by the federal government, and it's no hyperbole. The House has been proposing bills (there have been at least 170 "anti-environment" votes on the House floor alone since the GOP took the majority, according to Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee) trying to expunge expensive regulations as part of their overall jobs plan, while the president still insists that they don't have one and continues to campaign for his Gigantor of a Jobs Act. The most aggravating part about all of these forthcoming regulations is that the Obama administration gets to act like the grand white knight of environmental causes great and small, while the economic damages won't start showing themselves for a year or two, or more (depending on the long-term compliance guidelines).

POLITICO put together a list of some of the items on the EPA's upcoming agenda:

The Obama Environmental Protection Agency will have a busy 2012, proposing, finalizing, implementing and defending one rule after another, right through Election Day. ...

-In the remaining weeks of 2011, the agency will finalize rules regulating emissions for boilers and solid waste incinerators and to curb mercury and toxic emissions from power plants. The EPA also will move forward with automakers and the Department of Transportation to set new miles-per-gallon standards for automobiles and lower the amount of sulfur in gasoline.

-On Jan. 1, the agency’s rule governing air pollution that blows across state lines will take effect, amid a flurry of paperwork in a massive lawsuit driven by 45 petitioners. The lawsuit was brought by states beholden to more stringent requirements and utilities that will have to implement them. The EPA is joined in the case by downwind cities and states that will benefit from the new air pollution limits, along with environmentalists and some other utilities. ...

-The EPA will set greenhouse gas emission standards for fossil-fueled power plants and petroleum refineries.

-Under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget are rules to reconsider air emission standards at chemical manufacturing plants, and a review of risk and technology for emission standards for shipbuilding and ship repair. ...

-In July, the agency also will finalize a rule for water discharge permits for cooling towers that keep power plants and manufacturing facilities from overheating. Such towers pull water from rivers and streams, posing dangers to fish and fish eggs that become caught in intake screens. The issue prompted a Supreme Court ruling that says the EPA may consider costs and benefits in its regulations because the Clean Water Act does not explicitly forbid it. ...

And the list rolls on. Can we please move away from this idea that more government is the only possible way to bring about environmental quality? Hint: It isn't. It's a terrible trap into which we're increasingly prone to falling. I know that Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats qualify my anti-big government sentiments as "against clean water and against clean air" (FALSE), but the trend of turning to central planning and bureaucracy for our every whim threatens our survival far more immediately than any other challenge of the 21st century.

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Erika Johnsen

Erika Johnsen is a Web Editor for and Townhall Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @erikajohnsen.