(The following OpEd article by U.S. Rep. August Pfluger was originally published in the Houston Chronicle on July 28.)
It is not often that President Biden follows through on his promises. However, there is one he is determined to deliver on: his campaign pledge to “end fossil fuels” and his continuing down this path despite the high energy prices that are driving up costs on everything from gas to groceries, wreaking havoc on the budgets of all Americans. Biden is dead serious about his attack on fossil fuels. Most recently, the Biden administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, is pursuing sleight-of-hand policies that will further aggravate the global market and jeopardize industry access to the Permian Basin, a key supply of oil and natural gas.
I am fortunate to represent the Permian Basin, the largest secure supply of crude oil in the world and a critical tool for American national security. The region delivers more than 40 percent of the oil and 16 percent of the natural gas produced in the U.S. If the federal government slows down production in the Permian Basin, Americans will be deprived of the energy our economy and our allies desperately need.
Regrettably, his administration is continuing its attempts to cripple the region by announcing that the EPA may redesignate parts of the Permian as “nonattainment” zones in violation of 2015 ozone standards, meaning the state must work to lower pollution in the region. This nonattainment designation could significantly slow down production in the Permian — impeding one of the most productive shale plays in North America — and completely devastate local economies in the process.
If redesignated, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will develop plans to lower ozone levels across the Permian and effectively extend federal oversight to private lands with regulatory burdens on permitting, transporting, processing and more. As oil drilling often produces ozone precursors, restrictions on exploration and production are likely to be included in nonattainment restrictions.
It is no coincidence that this discretionary and unfounded proposal comes after an environmental group, WildEarth Guardians, petitioned EPA for the redesignation in March 2021. Roughly six months later, the organization warned the agency it intended to sue to force action.
No other stakeholder groups I know of — including local health care providers — provided input regarding the necessity of a nonattainment redesignation. Clearly, the Biden administration is prioritizing the satisfaction of radical green groups over affordable and reliable energy.
Air quality also continues to improve nationwide. Between 1990 and 2019, ozone concentrations in the U.S. decreased by 25 percent, and emissions of ozone precursors, such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, have dropped by 47 percent and 65 percent respectively according to a 2020 EPA report. Federally overhauling local communities will be counterproductive to the ongoing efforts to maintain satisfactory air quality in the Permian Basin.
In rural America, the energy industry generates high-paying jobs for working families and is the driver of the Texas economy. The industry annually contributes over $15 billion to state and local coffers to fund public education, emergency responders, hospitals, conservation projects and more. If the EPA finalizes this redesignation, many rural communities will face substantial and irreversible economic hardship.
An even more sinister reality of this additional layer of red tape is that big producers will weather the storm while local independents built by entrepreneurs will be the ones facing the most significant burden. The workers employed by these small businesses should not be forced to default on their monthly mortgage payments or give up saving for their children’s college tuition because of President Biden’s green dream.
While the Supreme Court recently delivered a win in the effort to rein in the climate activists running the EPA, those who champion American-made energy cannot underestimate the ability of a dead snake to bite. Unelected bureaucrats at the EPA will only get more creative in their attempts to throttle reliable energy production.
President Biden may think that Americans are not paying attention to these backdoor policies, but Texans, especially those in the Permian Basin, are on full alert. For us, the stakes have never been higher. Our livelihoods, communities and national security depend on it.
August Pfluger is the U.S. representative for 11th Texas congressional district.