TRAIN Act attempts to stop EPA "train wreck"

A House committee on July 12 approved a measure that would require Cabinet-level officials to study the effects of eight Clean Air Act regulations on employment and the economy. The measure, H.R. 2401, is titled the “Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the National Act,” and nicknamed the TRAIN Act. The Republican-backed measure passed by a vote of 33-13.

The bill targets EPA’s greenhouse gas emission controls for refineries and utilities, the recently finalized Cross State Air Pollution Rule, the Utility MACT rule and the Clean Air Mercury Rule, which is expected to be finalized in November 2011.

The bill now moves to the House floor, where it is expected to pass. The legislation, if passed through the House and Senate, would institute a panel with representatives from the Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Labor, and Treasury departments as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. International Trade Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the White House regulatory gatekeeper’s office.

Scott Segal, co-head of the federal government relations and strategic communications practices at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, testified on the legislation when it was first introduced. He said that if EPA proceeds with rulemaking and implementation while cumulative impact analyses are still underway, the combined effect of the power-sector rules “could have profound impacts on the national economy with minimal benefits.” The first of the rules to impact the economy would be Utility MACT and the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, Segal said.

EPA has estimated that Utility MACT will cost the power industry at least $11 billion, of which “the American public can expect as little as a one-time benefit of $500,000, for a return as small as one dollar of mercury benefit for every $22,000 invested,” Segal said. Some have also argued that the PM exposure addressed through Utility MACT is already being addressed through the Cross State Air Pollution rule and other regulations.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said the nickname TRAIN Act was derived from accusations from energy lobbyists that EPA’s air regulations will cause a “train wreck” in electricity reliability.

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