No, Matthew, there won’t be 230,000 new EPA jobs, so correct your article accordingly (update)

Posted on September 28, 2011

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[See update at the end of the post]

The devil is always in the details. Which may explain why Matthew Boyle of The Daily Caller got his details and facts all twisted up when he wrote that the EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations would force the EPA to grow by 230,000 employees. Boyle got this information out of an EPA court filing submitted on September 16 in a case involving the EPA’s authority to tailor regulations to major emitters of GHGs instead of to every emitter of GHGs.

Media Matters for America initially discovered the error and pointed out that the EPA avoided hiring an additional 230,000 employees to administer the GHG regulations. Yet Boyle, Fox News, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) all got that critical point wrong.

The EPA filing explains their process this way:

  1. The EPA analyzed the impacts of applying the statutory limits (100 and 250 tons of a pollutant, in this case carbon dioxide, CO2) and found that “the immediate and full application of PSD and Title V permitting requirements for stationary sources emitting greenhouse gases above the statutory thresholds on January 2, 2011, likely would cause ‘significant administrative and programmatic considerations.'”
  2. These “significant administrative and programmatic considerations” would have resulted in either an increase in permit processing time from 6-10 months to 10 years using today’s workforce or an increase in the number of EPA workforce from 17,000 today to 247,000 to keep today’s permitting time of 6-10 months.
  3. The EPA concluded that using the statutory limits would thus “overwhelm[] the resources of permitting authorities and severely impair[] the functioning of the programs….”
  4. So the EPA requested comment and studied the problem and found that “by phasing in the statutory thresholds, it could almost immediately achieve most of the emission benefits that would result from strict adherence to the literal 100/250 tpy threshold while avoiding the permit gridlock that unquestionably would result from the immediate application of that threshold.”

This isn’t the only major error in Boyle’s piece, however. Boyle essentially turned the entire court filing on its head, writing that that the EPA is fighting in the courts to require permitting of 6.1 million different sources, when in fact the EPA is fighting not to. It’s actually the states and industry groups who want the EPA to apply the 100/250 ton emissions thresholds instead of the tailored thresholds that the EPA wants to use. According to the challenge petition filed with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia,

Title V of the Clean Air Act requires stationary sources that emit “100 tons per year or more of any air pollutant” to obtain operating permits, while Title I requires permits before building or modifying any source that emits “250 tons per year or more of any air pollutant.”

The challenge further states

EPA’s Tailoring and Timing Rules… seek to impose unilaterally a drastic new regulatory regime without the congressional authorization or input required by the Clean Air Act.

EPA defends its Tailoring Rule by noting that obeying the statutory language “would create undue costs for sources and impossible administrative burdens for permitting authorities,” 75 Fed. Reg. at 31,547, and attempts to create a legal veneer for its unilateral rewriting of the Clean Air Act by invoking “congressional intent,” the “absurdity” doctrine, and Chevron deference. None of this can justify an agency’s decision to countermand unambiguous statutory language and expand its discretion by converting statutory rules into standards.

EPA Cannot Subordinate the Clean Air Act’s Unambiguous, Rule-Bound Numerical Thresholds to Actual or Imagined “Congressional Intent.” (emphasis added)

The very purpose of the court case brought by various states’ Attorneys General and many industry groups is to force the EPA to abide by the letter of the law, and so it’s the EPA’s opponents in this case that are actually demanding that the EPA hire 230,000 new employees, permit 6.1 million new CO2 sources, and spend $21 billion, not the EPA.

And why do the industry groups and states opposed to GHG regulation want to EPA to use the lower thresholds? Two reasons immediately present themselves: to force the EPA to go back to Congress critical of the EPA and ask for statutory relief, and/or to delay the implementation of the GHG regulations as long as possible.

These two errors are so blatant that, at a minimum, The Daily Caller should issue a correction that is at least as high profile as Boyle’s original, factually deficient claims. Given the entire piece is built on these two errors of fact, however, a full on retraction of the article would be even more appropriate.

Update 8:35 PM, 9/28/2011: Greg Sargent’s WaPo blog The Plum Line has a post about this article as well. He contacted The Daily Caller and the executive editor David Martosko isn’t budging on a correction or retraction. Sargent quotes Martosko:

Our story about the EPA was spot-on and accurate. It’s true that the agency’s court filing outlined a “tailoring rule” as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion. But the EPA was clear that “the Tailoring Rule is calculated to move toward eventual full compliance with the statutory threshold” — meaning it’s not a question of if the EPA wants to triple its budget, but when.

This whole kerfuffle illustrates how easy it is for left-wing agitators to manipulate reporters.

Given the quotes I dug up from the actual court challenge (see above), it’s fair to say that Martosko is not just misrepresenting the EPA’s court filing, but that hes being dishonest and unethical in the process.

To borrow a phrase, this whole kerfuffle actually illustrates that The Daily Caller is dishonest, untrustworthy, unethical, and that all three of those characteristics ooze down from the top.

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