COLUMBIA, SC — State Attorney General Alan Wilson has revived criticism in South Carolina against new controls on greenhouse gas pollution, but his remarks this week drew a sharp response from one of the nation’s leading environmental groups.
John Walke, who tracks air issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Friday that Wilson is misleading the public in suggesting that businesses will have an undue burden complying with the greenhouse gas requirements. Walke said the rules will not affect most businesses, but a relatively small number of large factories and power plants – and only if they plan to expand.
This week, Wilson told a Gannett news reporter in Washington that the new federal rules “make it unbearable for businesses to grow their facilities because of the onerous regulations imposed by the” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He was not available Friday for further comment, but a spokesman said Wilson stands by his comments.
Walke, a South Carolina native, said the attorney general is trying to score political points.
“This is ideological grandstanding to blow this case up into something more than it is,” Walke said. “I’m from South Carolina so I recognize politicians’ (motivations).”
Wilson is among a handful of state attorneys general who have joined a lawsuit challenging the rules that would regulate greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide.
These gases contribute to global warming and many environmental groups have pushed to control the pollution. But industries, some of which question the reality of global warming, say the regulations will be too expensive for them.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed past decisions that upheld the government’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, but agreed to hear limited arguments against the greenhouse gas rules. The court will hear legal points on issuing permits, according to the NRDC.
“To claim that this case will relieve burdens on all businesses and that the rules are an economic threat is just incorrect and a misrepresentation,” Walke said, noting that many opponents of the rules are making the same arguments.
Wilson’s statements this week are nothing new in South Carolina. Three years ago, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., blasted the EPA’s rules, saying they were too strict. He and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control held a public meeting in 2010 in which they said the rules could have far-reaching impacts, including regulating apartment complexes, churches, restaurants and family farms.
But in a 2010 interview with The State, then-U.S. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the rules would apply to major sources of greenhouse gas pollution and were not intended to affect small businesses.
The EPA’s greenhouse gas rules apply only to facilities that release 100,000 metric tons or more of the gases each year.
In South Carolina last year, fewer than half of the 112 large facilities that release greenhouse gases exceeded that level, according to a story Friday in The Greenville News. Last year in South Carolina, more than 43 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were released by the 112 facilities, according to the story.
“Government is like a rubber band, and if they feel the band is about to break, they let up,” Wilson was quoted as saying. “They concede temporarily, and two years from now they will up that standard.”