This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on May 28, 2015.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations have been at the center of widespread opposition since their release last year. Even in the face of criticism from elected officials, energy experts, regulators and scores of concerned citizens, the Obama Administration has vowed to ensure its environmental agenda is implemented at any cost. As a result, EPA is now scrambling to build public support before the rule is finalized this summer, calling on friends and allies to come to its aid – and, according to a recent New York Times article, using social media campaigns to build perceived support for its plans.
In coordination with the EPA, environmental groups have been staunch and vocal defenders of its proposal. Some have even argued the measure doesn’t go far enough, demonstrating the alarming degree of radicalism within the ranks of the environmental elite.
The Natural Resources Defense Council recently attempted to broaden support by releasing a study with questionable claims that casts EPA’s plan in an emphatically positive light. This comes as no surprise considering NRDC has an intimate connection to EPA’s carbon regulations and maintains a cozy relationship with the agency.
One of the report’s most egregious and tiresome points is that EPA’s proposal will lower electricity bills for U.S. consumers. Even EPA admits electricity prices will increase under its rule, a fact that is further validated by research from NERA Economic Consulting. NERA’s analysis found that 43 states will experience double-digit electricity price increases under EPA’s plan, with 14 states facing peak-year price increases of 20 percent or more. To reduce electricity bills and energy use, consumers will have to spend upwards of $560 billion. So people will have to pay more to use less energy.
Like many environmental groups, NRDC claims to be a champion of the disenfranchised. But we know that low-income Americans will face a disproportionate burden of electricity cost increases under EPA’s proposal. By ignoring these truths and claiming in its report that landlords will help the poor, they do serious injustice to 23 million low-income families in 31 states who bring home less than $1,300 after-tax a month and already spend 22 percent on energy costs they can barely afford.
It is the very underserved people NRDC claims to be helping — impoverished families, children, the elderly and other vulnerable constituencies — who will suffer the most as a result of EPA policy.
Another claim made in NRDC’s report is that EPA’s carbon regulations will help prevent health problems caused by air pollution, especially in low-income communities. These claims are patently false and have been debunked repeatedly, as carbon dioxide emissions have nothing to do with pollution or public health. EPA already stringently regulates the environmental causes of these ailments, ozone and particulate matter, which NRDC erroneously commingled in its discussion of public health.
The erroneous claims in the report keep piling up as NRDC goes onto suggest EPA’s plan won’t harm electric reliability. They argue renewable resources will supplant low-cost, dependable fossil fuels under the plan that will actually result in “a better electricity grid with reliability that is second to none.” This is laughable as leading utility experts and grid operators across the country have invalidated this claim repeatedly, as low-cost, reliable fuel sources like coal are absolutely indispensable to generating electricity.
The report likewise fails to pass the sniff test in its assertion that EPA regulations are not to blame for coal plant retirements. Of the 72,000 MW of coal plant retirements and announced retirements since 2010, EPA policies have been the primary factor cited for 61,000 MW, or 85 percent, of this capacity. This is equal to almost the entire generating capacity of Ohio. Even EPA’s own analysis attributes 49,000 MW of these retirements to its carbon regulations—nearly twice the entire electricity supply of Virginia. Without fossil fuels, America’s grid will be pushed to the edge, leaving families and businesses susceptible to blackouts, brownouts and rationing.
Finally, NRDC is in the dark about the proposal’s effect on climate change, arguing that the shift to clean energy will “prevent the worst impacts of climate change.” It appears, contrary to their fear-inducing talking points, EPA and its allies are well aware the agency’s proposal is only being pursued under the guise of climate change. In fact, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy even admitted before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “The great thing about this [EPA Power Plan] proposal is that it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control.” Research confirmed this and proved EPA’s carbon regulations will have no meaningful effect on climate change at all, reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration by less than one-half of a percent, lowering global average temperature by 2/100th of a degree and reducing sea level rise by 1/100th of an inch—equal to the thickness of three sheets of paper.
EPA’s last-ditch effort to muster support for its proposed carbon regulations has only illuminated how problematic and costly the plan really is, as evidenced by NRDC’s flawed report. Unfortunately, EPA and its allies have chosen to ignore reality and, in turn, ignore the investments being made by the coal industry to reduce emissions and foster clean energy innovation. As this administration forges ahead with its dangerous agenda, it is ultimately American consumers who will pay the price if EPA’s carbon regulations are left unchecked.