Guest Column: EPA mandates are bad news for Arizona

Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain

"We'll be put out of business."

That's how the Environmental Protection Agency's newest regulation was described by the CEO of Arizona's largest rural electricity providers, the Arizona Generation and Transmission Cooperatives. That sentiment is being expressed by employers all across Arizona every time the EPA issues one of its job-killing mandates. And as Politico recently noted, "scarcely a week goes by without the administration unveiling a new climate change initiative."

This is bad news for agriculture, electricity, homebuilding, and other industry sectors across our state, which face mounting new costs in order to comply with these burdensome regulations. Two of EPA's proposed regulations, the Clean Power Plan Rule and the Clean Water Rule, are arguably the greatest threats facing rural Arizona's business community today.

The first rule, which the Obama Administration finalized earlier this month, would shutter one-third of the coal plants in Arizona by classifying carbon dioxide as air pollution under the Clean Air Act. When this rule goes into effect, rural electrical co-ops predict utility bills for about 500,000 rural Arizonans will jump 38 percent.

The second rule would put farmers and ranchers under the thumb of the EPA by allowing the agency to regulate a dry wash or a ditch just as it does streams and other "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. Unless the rule is stopped, many landowners will need EPA's permission just to build on or cultivate their property - or risk having to pay a $37,000 fine or even jail time.

If you think the EPA won't abuse its power with these rules, think again. Just a few years ago, the agency threatened to freeze billions of dollars in federal transportation funding from coming to our state until the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality could prove that haboobs were not the fault of farmland or dirt from roads. Every Arizonan knows that dust storms occur naturally in the Sonoran Desert, but in EPA's eyes, the jury is still out on that question.

So what can be done about EPA's overreach? Senator Jeff Flake and I have sponsored legislation that would do away with the proposed Clean Water Rule, and we are building a case against the Clean Power Plan Rule following a recent Supreme Court ruling that said EPA can't implement a regulation if it hasn't fully analyzed its impact on the economy. In Arizona, agriculture, water, and power are our economy.

Ultimately, the American people need to join Congress in calling out the EPA and President Obama and stopping this regulatory abuse. These regulations aren't a good-faith effort to protect public health or the environment. Rather, they are an extension of the President's executive action strategy to use his "pen and phone" to unconstitutionally forge a legacy - a legacy that will have a chilling impact on Arizona's economy right when it's starting to recover.