A few weeks ago, responding to the furor caused by Mitt Romney’s remarks on global warming during a town hall meeting, conservative writer David French defended him by taking the position that it doesn’t matter that he said some unsettling things on the environment because what he did say, when it comes down to brass tacks, will be “functionally meaningless.”
Why? Because in essence, “no one on the Republican side is going to enact the left’s environmental agenda. Elect Mitt and that agenda dies.” Supporting his case he cites a left-wing environmentalist blogger who laments that Romney talks a good case on the environment — from the Left’s perspective — but does not back it up with any substantive policy proposals: “Romney has not, however, endorsed any policies that would actually achieve his supposed goal of reducing global warming pollution.”
Honestly, I wish I could share French’s confidence that we can effectively ignore Mitt’s troubling comments on the environment because he will not support them with any concrete actions. I cannot. Let me tell you why.
The president has a lot to do with the EPA’s agenda and how ardently it pursues it, with whether it is an ineffective paper tiger or a real tiger sinking its teeth into our personal freedoms while using its claws to rip away at the constitutional safeguards that underpin the liberties which allow a free market to thrive and prosper.
The EPA has recently released for comment several regulatory standards that will cost thousands of jobs in the coal and coal-fired electricity industries.
President Obama fully endorses these austere measures. He is famously on record as saying that someone may wish to build a new coal-fired power plant but he will put regulatory burdens on them so heavy they will make the building of it economically unfeasible. The EPA’s new emissions rules will not only make it hard to build a new coal generating plant but will threaten the existence of many plants already in operation, costing jobs.
Would a President Romney rein in the EPA and prevent it from implementing such destructive, job-killing, economically unproductive policies? Unsettling clues emerge from his actions toward such plants in his home state.
As governor in 2003, Romney rejected a request by Pacific Gas and Electric to delay tough new regulations put into effect by his state’s equivalent of the EPA aimed at cleaning up the emissions from similar types of power plants saying, “If the choice is between dirty power plants or protecting the health of the people of Massachusetts, there is no choice in my mind… I will always come down on the side of public health.”
Simultaneously he accused just one of those plants as being “responsible for 53 premature deaths, 570 emergency room visits and 14,400 asthma attacks each year.” Compare Romney’s eerily similar remarks then with the EPA’s current claim that its new rules will prevent “up to 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 asthma attacks.”
Adding also, in a dig aimed particularly at oil and coal-fired generating plants, “that coal and oil-fired plants contribute significantly more air pollution than their gas-fired counterparts, exacerbating acid rain and global warming” Romney continued to explain his actions and explicitly connected them with climate change.
In order to protect public health, Romney is also quoted as saying then that he will “enforce without compromise” the Massachusetts regulations in question. The situations are so strikingly similar that one must ask, “Would a President Romney also be inclined to uncompromisingly enforce the EPA’s new emissions regulations on coal-fired power plants?” They do after all have the same supposedly health-related justification that he bought hook-line-and-sinker back in 2003.
And what of the claim that enforcing these regulations may cost jobs? He also blatantly stated then , “I will not protect jobs that kill people. And that plant kills people.” So would a President Romney be at all phased by the job-killing aspect of the EPA’s new rules?
Unlike what Mr. French has suggested, Mitt Romney does not have to propose new policies in order to support the Left’s agenda and be troubling on the environment.
Victor Morawski, professor at Coppin State University, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer. Reprinted by permission of Americans for Limited Government.