By The Editorial Board
Wall Street Journal, Jun. 29, 2022
President Biden and his aides keep saying they’re doing everything they can to produce more oil and gas in the U.S. Apparently they think Americans aren’t paying attention, because his Administration keeps making rule after rule to throttle production.
The latest comes from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has announced it may soon deem parts of the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico in “non-attainment” with its ozone standards. Green groups last spring petitioned the EPA to do this to effectively force curbs on shale fracking. The Permian is currently the most productive, and cost-effective, oil shale reserve in the U.S. It accounts for 43% of U.S. oil production.
“The EPA’s process could interfere in the production of oil in Texas which could lead to skyrocketing prices at the pump by reducing production, increase the cost of that production, or do both,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote Mr. Biden this week. “Your administration’s announced action is completely discretionary. Thus, you have the power to stop it.”
Drilling produces volatile organic compounds (VOC) that create ozone when mixed with nitrogen oxides (e.g., from vehicles) and sunshine. EPA recently started using solar-powered air sampling systems to remotely measure emissions in the Permian. If EPA deems them too high, Texas and New Mexico would have to propose plans to reduce ozone, which would likely require limits on drilling.
Since EPA doesn’t have the legal authority to ban fracking, it’s now trying to do so through this regulatory back door. We warned about this last year. Climate activists also want EPA to tighten ozone standards to indirectly regulate CO2 from fossil fuels. Joe Goffman, a champion of this idea, is leading EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation on an acting basis, and he’s in charge of ozone rules.
Mr. Goffman midwifed the Obama Clean Power Plan that had sought to conscript states into a force-fed green energy grid transition until the courts killed it. A 2014 article from E&E News described Mr. Goffman as the “U.S. EPA’s law whisperer. His specialty is teaching an old law to do new tricks.” How many more tricks does he have up his sleeve to keep gas prices high?
The President in March formally nominated this EPA law whisperer to his current post. If Mr. Biden didn’t want to stop U.S. oil and gas production, he wouldn’t appoint regulators whose main purpose in life is to do just that. And as Mr. Abbott noted, the President has the power to stop them.