Kelly Sloan, The Business Times
What’s described as a “coming storm” of federal environmental regulations could wreak crippling effects on businesses, according to officials speaking at a forum in Grand Junction.
If enforced, those regulations would expand the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over rivers and streams as well as reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“Small businesses are different than big ones in that they don’t have an in-house compliance and legal staff to help them navigate these regulatory issues,” said Tony Gagliardi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business and one of the speakers at the forum. “All they can do is pick up the phone and talk to a lawyer, which greatly increases their costs.”
The NFIB, a small business advocacy group, conducted the forum along with Americans for Prosperity Colorado and the Independence Institute. The event was part of a statewide series highlighting what’s seen as federal regulatory overreach.
The forum also featured Ray Gifford, a Denver lawyer and former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and State Sen. Ray Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction. Michael Sandoval, a research associate for the Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center, moderated the event.
Gagliardi discussed the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule, an amendment to the Clean Water Act expanding EPA jurisdiction over rivers, streams and other bodies of water as well as the land on which they’re located. The rule could bring at least 8.1 million miles of rivers and steams under EPA rule, he said.
A federal court issued a temporary nationwide stay in enforcing the rule with challenges pending in courts around the country.
Gagliardi said the language of the rule creates uncertainty as to what is and isn’t under EPA jurisdiction. That uncertainty, along with the added costs of obtaining federal permits that would be required for most activities taking place on affected lands, could have profound effects on small businesses.
Gifford addressed the proposed Clean Power Plan, regulations intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by nearly a third by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels. Meanwhile, though, the plan also could affect the mining industry that provides coal for electric generation.
While Colorado is already an estimated 80 percent on the way to achieving lower emissions standards, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined in a lawsuit challenging the plan as federal overreach. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who supports the plan, has asked the Colorado Supreme Court to rule on the legality of Coffman filing suit without his approval.
In curtailing coal-fired power generation, the Clean Power Plan also will raise electrical rates for consumers, Gifford said. And that will be the fault of regulators, not utilities. “We should not blame the power companies for these increased costs. Power companies will do what regulators tell them to do, then pass the costs along to customers.”
Scott discussed Senate Bill 258, a measure considered in the State Legislature in the last session requiring legislative approval before implementing federal regulations. “The concept was that the EPA would have to allow an opportunity to review and approve what they are attempting to do in Colorado.”
The measured died in the Democrat-controlled House.
Scott also took exception to the state’s renewable energy standard and the push by state and federal regulators to mandate the increase use of renewable energy sources for electrical generation. “Solar has a problem, it’s called night,” he said. “Wind has a problem of no wind. Both have the problem of storage.”