“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.