Posts filed under National Affairs

Politics of EPA’s Final Rule Don’t Mix With Kitchen Table Issues

This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on August 20, 2015.

It’s always interesting to watch politicians try to reconcile positions that make soundbites but completely contradict the policies they actually support.

President Obama is one politician guilty of this practice. Elected in large part due to working- and middle-class frustration following the 2008 economic collapse, he constantly harped on narrowing the gap between the rich and poor. Yet seven years later, he seems more concerned with preserving his legacy, putting overreaching action on climate change ahead of Americans’ top priorities and further widening the very gap he promised to shrink.

Let’s take a look at this in action.

The rhetoric: In recent remarks announcing his carbon reduction plan, President Obama said the plan was necessary because “if we want to protect our economy and our security and our children’s health, we’re going to have to do more.”

The reality: President Obama’s plan will result in painful costs for those who can afford it least. It disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities and will significantly burden nearly half of America’s households that on average are bringing home less than $25,000 annually. These families already struggle with rising energy costs; 24 percent of low-income households went without food for at least one day and 37 percent went without medical or dental care in order to pay for energy.

It’s easy to think about the working poor in the abstract, it’s another thing altogether when one must come face-to-face with people and communities, like those in the Navajo Nation, who are already suffering and will only be further hurt by the president’s ill-conceived plan. The Navajo Nation community already scheduled partial shutdowns of its two coal-fired power plants, but the president’s plan is lofty and unrealistic. The final rule calls for a 38 percent reduction, compared to the 6 percent called for in the draft rule. These stringent and unreasonable regulations will almost certainly raise energy prices on the reservation and result in devastating job losses. According to a statement by Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, “These jobs are extremely difficult to obtain on the nation and are almost irreplaceable. Any negative impacts on the power plants and mines will have a severe and direct effect on the tribal economy.”

That’s reality.


When EPA Can Pick and Choose, We All Lose

How many times have you watched a sporting event and been convinced the referees officiating the game made calls unfairly favoring one team over another? Just as referees are supposed to call games objectively and without bias, government should stay out of the business of picking winners and losers.

In its final carbon rule, however, the Environmental Protection Agency did just that when it imposed on 22 states more stringent emission reduction requirements than originally proposed.

Final Rule Percentage Map_FINAL_08.28.15

All of these states – except Rhode Island which has no coal-fired electricity generation – rely on coal to maintain affordable electricity prices. The collective average retail electricity price for the 21 coal-reliant “biggest loser” states was 12 percent below the national average in 2014. In contrast, Rhode Island’s electricity price was 49 percent above the national average.

EPA’s picking and choosing amounts to a big loss for consumers in all states forced to reduce CO2 emissions, but it hits the “biggest loser” states especially hard. Rising energy costs and declining family incomes are already straining the budgets of America’s lower- and middle-income families. Households with pre-tax annual incomes below $50,000, representing 48 percent of the nation’s households, already spend 17 percent of their after-tax income on energy costs. Many of these families are forced to make tough choices when their energy bill arrives each month. EPA’s carbon rule makes those decisions that much more difficult.

EPA’s pursuit of its illegal plan follows a dangerous trend of government agencies picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace. No matter where you live, this amounts to the makings of something much worse than just a bad call. When government is allowed to pick and choose, we all lose.


Growing Up With Coal: Hillary Clinton and Coal Country

President Obama’s tireless pursuit of his climate legacy is well-timed with the 2016 election cycle, especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton and how she is addressing the impact Obama’s carbon regulations will have on coal communities.

During her 2008 run, Clinton proudly touted her loose ties to coal country, emphasizing America’s need for coal and the crucial role clean coal technology will play in our energy future. In the wake of the president’s final carbon plan, however, Clinton now speaks of coal in the “past tense.” Reporters say she is walking a fine line between supporting the interests of voters in coal-producing states and appeasing environmentalists and donors aligned with Obama’s plan.

As someone with strong ties to coal country, I’m not “ready” for Hillary’s pseudo-support of the region and the hard working Americans who live there.

When Clinton expressed her support of President Obama’s carbon regulations, she was no longer walking a fine line – in fact, she crossed it. By promising to defend and build upon the costly and illegal plan, Clinton will place the “everyday Americans” she purports to champion in the crosshairs, raising energy costs and destroying jobs for families in coal communities.

Clinton would do well to cease with her “past tense” rhetoric, as coal currently helps support 700,000 jobs and provides nearly 40 percent of our nation’s electricity. The coal industry is very much a part of America’s present and is key to meeting our growing energy needs in the future, but by supporting the president’s plan, Clinton is turning her back on all of those it employs. Like the President, it’s well past time she prioritizes the families she claims to fight for over the support of elitist environmentalist activists she seeks.


Committee Report on EPA-NRDC Collusion Raises Eyebrows on Capitol Hill

It’s no secret the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Resources Defense Council are joined at the hip on the onerous, carbon regulations being foisted on the American public. It’s been going on for years.

A new Congressional report shows the depths of this cozy relationship.

In its report, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reveals how EPA has been colluding with wealthy environmental activists to create these carbon rules, which place the greatest burden on those Americans who can afford it least.

Not only will Americans be left with sky-rocketing electricity prices, they will also be at risk of a weakened electric grid unable to handle massive changes mandated by EPA’s plan. Even worse, the purported health improvements are nothing more than a smoke screen designed to hide the fact that the plan will do nothing to meaningfully reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Senate EPW Blog Post_Graphic_FINAL_08.10.15

Here are just a few of the ways EPA and environmental activists attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of Americans:

Wild goose chase: The report cites numerous accounts of EPA officials repeatedly misleading the public, news media and Congress about their negotiations and dealings with environmental activists in order to breathe life into the carbon emissions ruling.

Getting cozy: The report details the “cozy relationship” among EPA officials and environmental activists. To avoid public transparency, they were often communicating through personal email accounts and holding meetings away from EPA headquarters.

According to email records between key EPA and NRDC players, “senior EPA officials continued to have numerous phone calls and meetings in July 2013 with NRDC staff, including several to discuss technical analysis and modeling that NRDC has developed to support its policy proposals.”

Political chess: EPA manipulated rule-making deadlines to avoid public backlash before the 2012 Presidential and 2014 midterm elections. They even went as far as to devise a “sue-and-settle” scheme, where negotiations among EPA and environmental activists were made behind closed doors.

Even more disheartening is the strong-arming of EPA Science Advisory Board members to “back down from review,” in order to block scientific and scholarly input and push the plans into the hands of the president.

The evidence of a carbon rules political cartel is overwhelming. With EPA and environmentalist groups running amok, Congressional oversight is more important than ever.

It’s time the American public knows more about exactly what is going on between EPA and wealthy environmental activists. Spread the word!


EPA Outdoes Itself with Final Carbon Plan, Consumers Pay the Price

When it comes to bureaucratic overreach, the Environmental Protection Agency just took the proverbial cake when issuing its final rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. In doing so, EPA usurped the authority of virtually every state in the nation, while unleashing both sky-high energy cost increases for consumers and irreversible damage to the reliability of America’s electric grid.

EPA’s final rule is the most expensive ever imposed on the electric power sector. According to analysis of the proposed rule conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, consumers will see double-digit electricity rate increases in 43 states if the plan is implemented. These increases will be particularly devastating for the 59 million low- and middle-income families who may be forced to choose to keep the lights on or food on the table.

How else does the final rule affect America?

  • The nation’s electricity grid will be jeopardized. Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. coal fleet is currently scheduled to retire, largely due to recent EPA policies. Once coal plants go offline, they cannot be brought back online to generate electricity during times of greatest demand. As a result, America’s grid, which is not prepared to operate on renewable energy sources, would require an estimated $2 trillion in upgrades by 2030.
  • Perhaps the biggest blow of all, EPA’s carbon regulations will have virtually no effect on its stated purpose: climate change. At best, the rule will reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations by less than one-half of one percent, global average temperature by less than 2/100th of a degree and sea level rise by the thickness of three sheets of paper – all at a cost few can afford.

Because EPA deliberately misinterpreted the Clean Air Act, this illegal rule engendered the opposition of elected and environmental officials from 32 states and legal experts. In fact, President Obama’s former law professor, renowned constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe, likened the regulation to “burning the Constitution.”

ACCCE-2015-Jul-31-Facebook-1B

Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said it best today: “This rule fails across the board, but most troubling is that it fails the millions of families and businesses who rely on affordable electricity to help them keep food on the table and the lights on.”

We will continue to fight until this illegal takeover of America’s energy system is overturned by the courts. Stay tuned for updates on how America’s Power is making sure electricity remains affordable for all Americans.


America’s Real Moral Obligation: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Communities

This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on July 17, 2015.

The Environmental Protection Agency relies on a predictable playbook to bolster public support for its agenda. Using hyperbolic rhetoric to tug at Americans’ heartstrings, the agency routinely fails to disclose important considerations like costs and consequences. Case in point is a recent blog post by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on our “moral obligation” to support radical climate change initiatives like her agency’s proposed plan to regulate carbon emissions from power plants and efforts to limit fossil fuel development abroad. Not surprisingly, the blog post makes no mention of the negative impacts of these regulations.

While Administrator McCarthy is correct to assert America has a moral obligation to help struggling people around the globe, it is not in the way that she calls for it. Our real moral obligation is to protect vulnerable communities, including hard-working families, businesses and our economy, from EPA’s proposed plan. Overreaching environmental policies, like those her agency is pursuing as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, will lead to a decrease in affordable electricity, adding up to economic hardships for our nation’s most vulnerable communities and for billions of people around the globe.

The climate policies Administrator McCarthy claims we have a moral obligation to support will phase out electricity from fossil fuels, including coal. Considering the fact that coal-based generation alone accounts for nearly 40 percent of our electricity supply in the United States and nearly 41 percent around the world, the costs and consequences are substantial.

American households, particularly those of vulnerable groups like minorities and the elderly, face rising electricity costs and are spending a substantial portion of their incomes just to keep the power on. These households already struggling to make ends meet will see these costs piled on top of the 17 percent of their take-home pay they already spend on energy needs.

Energy poverty is arguably one of the most significant human crises we face. In fact, it is estimated that one in seven people globally lack adequate access to electricity. Far too many families go without the electricity required for basic needs like clean water, safe heating and cooking, and medical equipment. By working to limit fossil fuel use abroad, EPA will prevent developing nations from experiencing the benefits that accompany low-cost, reliable electricity including economic development, the adaption of new technologies and advanced health care.

The climate movement is grasping at straws by attempting to supplant fossil fuels with costlier, less reliable fuel sources like wind and solar. Simply put, these resources cannot replace affordable, dependable fuel sources like coal. Renewables aren’t able to provide around-the-clock power generation because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Likewise, EPA and its allies like to ignore the fossil fuel industry’s tremendous advancements in championing clean energy technologies, which are reducing emissions and ensuring these abundant resources can meet ever-growing energy demand in a cleaner and more efficient manner than ever before.

It appears Administrator McCarthy has no intention of scaling back her agency’s climate change initiatives, which are nothing more than a last-ditch legacy-building effort for President Obama. Our real moral obligation is protecting our own community and the communities that need our help most urgently from the serious threats these regulations pose domestically and internationally. To fulfill this moral obligation, we must stand united in fighting EPA’s dangerous agenda.


The Future of Energy: 2016 Presidential Candidates on Powering America

The pool of individuals vying for the presidency has long since been in the double digits and continued to grow just this week. For the average family, staying informed on the specific stances of the multitude of candidates can be a daunting task. That’s why America’s Power is helping voters cut through the noise through a series of events called “The Road to 2016.”

In a hyper-politicized age, Americans too often only hear about the controversial, hot-button issue of the day. Which is precisely why The Road to 2016 is designed to help citizens learn about the candidates’ views on topics like energy that can too easily be drowned out by incessant loops of the same political soundbite.

Energy issues are critical to the political discourse leading up to November 2016. The future of the coal industry affects the jobs and livelihoods of more than 700,000 people, as well as electricity prices for every American. Families across the country must understand candidates’ stances on the many issues facing the energy sector and the role it plays in ensuring a healthy economy.

Carly FiorinaAmerica’s Power recently hosted presidential candidate and businesswoman Carly Fiorina in Denver, Colorado, as part of The Road to 2016 series. Given the recent onslaught of regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, Fiorina spoke of the impact these rules will have on the American economy. Fiorina in particular addressed the agency’s upcoming carbon regulations, noting: “They’re terrible. Every single one of them ought to be repealed.” She went on to state: “It’s impossible for any single nation acting alone to make any difference at all” when it comes to climate change. If elected president, Fiorina would incentivize companies to invest in clean coal technologies, saying: “The answer to energy is not regulation. It’s innovation.”

In addition to Denver, America’s Power traveled to Des Moines, Iowa in April for an event featuring Governor Bobby Jindal, former Governor Rick Perry and former Senator Rick Santorum. Additional events will be held throughout the year, with the next installment on June 28 in Columbia, South Carolina. In an already inflammatory election cycle, The Road to 2016 is providing a much-needed platform for the American people to hear direct and substantive answers on important energy questions.


A Look at the Paris Climate Talks and the Use of Coal in China and India

By Emma Battle and Cedrick Dalluge

Later this year, more than 190 countries will meet in Paris, France with the aim of formalizing a global agreement to address climate change. The talks, known as COP21, will have two main goals: to curb global warming and to provide funding to help countries invest in cleaner technologies. The U.N. believes the first goal will require a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions of 40 to 70 percent by 2050. The second is based on mobilizing $100 billion per year in funding. Paris attendees are likely to arrive, therefore, with high expectations and tight purse strings. While many world leaders originally hoped COP21 would produce a binding international treaty, political tensions and recent conversations point to the potential for looser, unenforceable pledges, particularly from developing countries.

For example, both India and China have been vocal about their focus on empowering their middle classes, developing their infrastructures and growing their economies. Their paths towards this progress are marked by a similar trend: reliance on low-cost, abundant energy – chiefly coal. China has lifted more than 400 million people out of poverty since 1980, arguably the greatest poverty alleviation movement in history. That nation’s reliance on reliable, affordable coal-based electricity has allowed it to rapidly develop its infrastructure and grow its economy. Its neighbor, India, now seeks to follow suit, using coal-based electricity to end widespread energy poverty and empower its growing middle class.

While some negotiators in Paris this November may forget coal’s history as a tool of economic growth, it’s important this overall message does not get lost in translation: coal, one of the planet’s most abundant resources, still serves as a conduit for empowerment. After watching coal help power the growth of other nation’s economies for decades, developing countries around the world seek to do the same.

It will be interesting to watch how the Paris talks play out, given the many different countries in attendance. No matter the debate, we are hopeful pragmatic voices will speak out in favor of an approach that allows continued economic empowerment for all nations through the use of all of our natural resources.