Posts filed under Policy and Legislation

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.”

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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 Truth Behind EPA’s Energy Policy

When someone criticizes the Environmental Protection Agency, the normal response nowadays is a retort along the lines of, “What did Mother Nature ever do to you?” or “So, you hate puppies and all things good, then?” Yes, I may be exaggerating, but don’t miss my overall point: Americans should feel free, and indeed obligated, to analyze and criticize the actions of federal government agencies. Since our tax dollars fund these massive institutions, it should be expected that we monitor their policies and initiatives, and EPA is no exception.

For the past several years, EPA has targeted domestic energy industries, particularly those producing fossil fuels, under the guise that doing so will significantly thwart climate change and produce a stronger economy. The coal industry in particular has been pinpointed by such EPA policies, which have been cited as a factor in the closure of 62,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity (393 coal units) in 36 states as of June 18. Entire communities have been devastated by these closures, forcing state officials to cope with weakened regional economies and increased unemployment. Hard-working Americans have seen their way of life destroyed for the sake of EPA’s politically fashionable and hastily implemented agenda.

Unfortunately, these irresponsible practices continue to persist in the form of additional, burdensome regulations. What does this trend actually mean for the environment? Will more layoffs, plant shutdowns and intentional economic dilapidation add up to a greener planet? EPA’s proposed carbon regulations, the centerpiece of its climate change program, would reduce sea level rise by a mere 1/100th of an inch – the equivalent of three sheets of paper! From an economic standpoint, the effects are even less inspiring; economic analysis reveals the costs to comply with the plan could total $366 billion, or more, in today’s dollars. Consumers will ultimately foot the bill for these rising costs, which include double-digit electricity price increases in 43 states. Consider the amount of irreversible economic damage these regulations will cause compared to their practically nonexistent environmental achievement and ask yourself, “isn’t there a better way?”

America’s coal industry has undergone vast and impressive improvements to use coal more cleanly and efficiently than ever before. Emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from coal-fueled power plants have been reduced by approximately 90 percent over the period of 1970-2014. Meanwhile, the industry continues to provide jobs to over 700,000 hard-working Americans and pump revenue and ingenuity into our national economy. As America’s most expansive electricity source, coal provides reliable and affordable energy to families and businesses across the country. States benefit as well; those that generate the majority of their electricity from coal pay on average 11 percent less than the national average.

If EPA wants to make a true, lasting difference in the well-being of our national and global environment, stifling entrepreneurship and hindering families is not the right approach. Instead, incentivize existing industries to develop and utilize cleaner technologies. Encourage responsible growth so businesses can more easily contribute to scientific research and innovation. The American people, and their more manageable power bills, will thank you.


FERC Official Warns EPA’s Power Grab Could Undermine States’ Rights

An official at the federal regulatory body in charge of monitoring America’s electric grid is once again calling attention to the serious cost, reliability and legal issues surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Tony Clark voiced new concerns about EPA’s proposal at the Western Conference of Public Service Commissioners, where he addressed regulators from many of the states that will be most severely impacted by the plan.

As E&E reported last week, Commissioner Clark warned EPA’s proposal could “fundamentally change everything about how utilities are regulated.”

Emphasizing the flawed legal foundation of the regulations, he characterized EPA’s plan as a federal power grab, saying “What EPA is asking states to do, depending on how states choose to write their [state implementation plans], is to give EPA authority over things that it on its own in the Clean Air Act does not have authority to claim jurisdiction over.”

FERC quote blockCommissioner Clark went on to caution that if EPA’s proposal moves forward in its current state, it will put EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in charge of state energy policy, giving Washington “so much authority over the decisions that have traditionally been made by state public utility commissions, legislators and governors.”

We’ve already heard from many of those state public utility commissions, legislators and governors who share Commissioner Clark’s sentiments. As both state and federal officials recognize the growing threat EPA’s power grab poses to our nation’s energy security, it is time to put an end to these proposed regulations once and for all.

 


Courts must step in and stop EPA’s brazen overreach

This column originally appeared on FoxNews.com on May 5, 2015.

It’s been said that ‘timing is everything’ and time is just one of the issues at stake in the legal proceedings surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. Specifically, the Court must decide if a proposed federal regulation, like the CPP, can be struck down before it is finalized.

In this case, that would be the right decision.

Last month, attorneys on behalf of Murray Energy Corporation and a bipartisan coalition of 15 states argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit seeking to have the Court dismiss EPA’s plan. One of the arguments made by EPA is that the Court must not dismiss the rule because it is still tentative, could change, and the EPA could still “even withdraw the proposed rule”.

When it comes to the Clean Power Plan, however, the EPA is clearly talking out of both sides of its mouth. As EPA attorneys seek to convince the courts the proposed rule could be influenced or even withdrawn based on the feedback received in the public comment period, EPA officials are blatantly singing another tune.

Just one week prior to the oral arguments before the Court of Appeals, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told an energy symposium, “[The Clean Power Plan] is going to happen. We have the legal – not just right and authority but responsibility – to do it.”

In March, McCarthy said, “EPA is going to regulate… If folks are thinking any of these pieces aren’t going to happen – and (the Clean Power Plan) isn’t going to be implemented, I think they need to look at the history of the Clean Air Act more carefully.”

These are hardly the words of an agency that is still making up its mind.

Fortunately, Judge Thomas Griffith seemed to pick up on this during oral arguments, asking the EPA if McCarthy’s remarks suggest that the agency’s comment period is a “sham.” While the EPA argued it wasn’t, the evidence certainly suggests otherwise.

When the EPA held field hearings on the rule, they neglected to hold them in coal-rich areas that would be among those most hurt by its plan. EPA’s air quality chief Janet McCabe told Congress the agency held hearings in “locations where people were comfortable coming.”

A sincere comment period should not be about comfort. It should be about hearing the impacts – both good and bad – of a proposed rule. Unfortunately, the EPA seems uninterested in doing the right thing.

It is essential the courts act now to stop EPA’s Clean Power Plan because the impacts on states are already being felt. EPA’s proposal requires each state to submit a specific plan that will lead to a nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 30 percent by 2030. These plans are to be submitted to EPA by June 2016.

These plans represent an extraordinarily complex undertaking. States will need to study their electricity infrastructure, change their policies and laws, adjust their regulatory structures, all while ensuring electric reliability isn’t put at risk. Many states suggest the development of such a plan will require three years or more, yet EPA is giving them just one. Adding insult to injury, all of this work must be done irrespective of legal challenges that will likely overturn the rule.

To accommodate this accelerated schedule, states already are dedicating taxpayer dollars to prepare for the rule. Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and South Dakota are just some of the states that report using significant amounts of staff time studying the proposed rule and the substantial changes they would need to make to implement it.

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan Faces Tough Criticism at House Energy & Commerce Hearing

Tuesday, April 14, brought with it a deluge of criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan during a House Energy and Commerce Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing. The hearing focused on Chairman Ed Whitfield’s draft bill, the Ratepayer Protection Act, which seeks to protect consumers from increased electricity rates and decreased grid reliability associated with the CPP.

The committee heard from Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, and energy experts like Eugene Trisko, an economist and attorney. Several members of the committee expressed strong opposition to the proposal, as did numerous witnesses:

Congressman Ed Whitfield (KY-1): The Clean Power Plan “forces states to adopt policies that will raise energy costs.”

Congressman Fred Upton (MI-6): “America’s manufacturing industry could not survive without electricity rates that allow us to be globally competitive.”  

Congressman Joe Barton (TX-6): “There is no health benefit to this rule… It’s the administration deciding politically correct social policy.”

 Economist Eugene Trisko: “Lower income families are more vulnerable to energy costs because electricity represents a larger portion of their budget, which in turn reduces the amount of income that can be spent on food, housing, health care and other necessities.”

 Kevin Sunday, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry: “EPA’s proposal threatens Pennsylvania’s biggest competitive advantage, as it will drastically change the way Pennsylvania produces and uses energy. This change is likely to come with a significant economic impact to the business community, as well as threaten reliability across the grid.”

 Lisa D. Johnson, Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc.: “The truth is that Florida cannot comply with EPA’s proposal using its existing utility investments, and the overall utility cost impacts would likely total in the billions – and perhaps tens of billions – of dollars.”  

While Ms. McCabe tried to argue that EPA’s analysis showed household electricity bills would fall in some cases because people will buy less electricity under energy efficiency measures, it convinced few attendees. Congressman David McKinley (WV-1) was particularly unimpressed with her arguments, responding to Ms. McCabe with two simple words: “Unbelievable. Delusional.”

Congressman McKinley is on point. It’s delusional to think this plan, which has been cited as the most expensive environmental regulation ever imposed on the electric power sector, will be affordable for consumers, families and businesses. Mr. Trisko recently published papers that delve deeper into the troubling trend of declining incomes and rising energy prices in states across the country – a trend that will only be exacerbated by EPA’s costly and overreaching CPP.

 


Witnesses at House Hearing Declare the Clean Power Plan Unconstitutional

“EPA’s [Clean Power Plan] proposal raises grave constitutional questions, exceeds EPA’s statutory authority and violates the Clean Air Act.”

– Professor Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School

This quote aptly sums up the discussion at a hearing this week hosted by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (KY-01) invited several scholars and state regulators to respond to the legal and cost issues associated with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

It comes as no surprise that witnesses and legislators alike shared serious concerns with the constitutionality of the CPP. The proposed regulation amounts to a federal power grab, infringing on states’ authority to manage and regulate electricity generation within their borders.

Allison D. Wood, an environmental attorney with Hunton & Williams LLP and one of the witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing, noted “EPA’s proposed section 111(d) rule…seeks to regulate an enormous part of the economy. The rule suffers from numerous legal deficiencies, including whether EPA even has authority to issue it.” She also said that when it comes to the perceived legality of its promulgation of the rule, “EPA is incorrect.”

Professor Tribe elaborated on Ms. Woods’ sentiment when he said, “The obscure section of the Clean Air Act that EPA invokes to support its breathtaking exercise of power in fact authorizes only regulating individual plants and, far from giving EPA the green light it claims, actually forbids what it seeks to do. EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts – all at once. Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.

Of course, the problems with the CPP didn’t stop with its questionable legal foundation. It was clear during the hearing that the economic consequences of the proposal will be felt far and wide.

As Representative Fred Upton (MI-06) noted, “the last thing job creators need is an expensive regulation likely to drive up energy prices.” Witnesses and legislators also decried the high costs of a regulation that, even if carried out as EPA demands, will result in only negligible environmental benefits. Representative David McKinley (WV-01) told witnesses “there’s something illogical about putting our economy at risk” only to diminish sea level rise by the thickness of three sheets of paper.

The CPP will come at a high cost to our local economies and communities, but it’s not only businesses that will be affected by the proposed regulations. Donald van der Vaart, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said, “This will be a very expensive rule… The people who are going to bear the cost of the Clean Power Plan are those who can least afford it.”

Legal scholars, industry experts, state and federal lawmakers and others agree: the CPP is costly, overreaching and illegal. It must be withdrawn.

 


A Drop in the Bucket: The Real Compliance Costs of EPA’s Clean Power Plan

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will yet again be before Congress this week vigorously defending her agency’s $8.6 billion fiscal year 2016 budget request. A significant portion of McCarthy’s budget request will be dedicated to pursuing a legally flawed climate plan that won’t result in any meaningful environmental benefit – a questionable path for an agency charged with protecting the environment to be pursuing. What will the plan result in if not environmental benefits? Costs. Staggering electricity costs that risk our energy and economic security.

We won’t hear Administrator McCarthy talk about the costs of her agency’s Clean Power Plan, however, as that territory is a bit too tricky to navigate with her well memorized rhetoric.

The funny thing is, numbers seem to speak for themselves. So we took a look at multiple economic impact models that scrutinized the true costs of EPA’s plan. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that EPA’s estimated compliance cost of $7.2 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to what others found.

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