EPA's Clean Power Plan needs work

By Shelley Moore Capito | May 13, 2015

WASHINGTON – With America’s economy still in the midst of challenging economic times, the last thing job creators need is more burdensome Environmental Protection Agency regulations to stifle growth and opportunity.

The last thing our families and senior citizens need is to see their electric bills skyrocket.

And, the last thing our hard-working miners can afford is a war on coal, which is not just an energy source, but a way of life for so many West Virginians.

Even still, EPA is moving forward with overreaching and unprecedented carbon regulations as part of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which threaten to wipe out coal, eliminate jobs and drive up energy prices.

In a continued effort to rein in the Obama administration’s misguided energy policies, I chaired a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee in Washington last week to examine the legal implications of the Clean Power Plan.

West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey attended the hearing as a witness, and spoke at length about the legality of the plan, its ramifications in West Virginia and other coal producing states, and legal efforts to fight back.

Morrisey has been leading the national legal fight against the EPA proposal, which he described as “entirely unprecedented and unlawful.”

One of the primary legal arguments he cited against the Clean Power Plan is the EPA’s claim that it has legal authority to adopt its carbon regulations under the Clean Air Act, when in fact the regulations are a violation of this law.

We know from nearly five decades of experience that the Clean Air Act works best when implemented in the spirit of cooperative federalism. When the federal government works with the states as partners, we can, and we have, improved air quality, grown our economy and protected our electricity grid at the same time.

However, under the Clean Power Plan, we have EPA dictating to states and effectively micromanaging intrastate electricity policy decisions to a degree even the agency admits is unprecedented. This raises a broad array of legal issues and is, quite simply, bad policy.

As a result, states such as West Virginia and Oklahoma – whose Attorney General Scott Pruitt also spoke at this week’s hearing – have raised grave concerns about the legality of the EPA proposal and the implications for their citizens and ratepayers.

In addition to significant Constitutional and other legal questions, states have expressed concerns about the feasibility of EPA’s proposed requirements and the likely impacts on electricity costs and reliability.

At risk is the ability that states have always had to make decisions about their electricity generation.

“Rather than merely setting a structure for states to reduce emissions from these plants, EPA has taken the view that it can force states to reduce the use of — including demand for — coal-based energy,” said Morrisey.

West Virginia has chosen to rely on coal to provide affordable and reliable electricity for our consumers and businesses. As a result, we have some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation.

Other states make different choices that best serve their citizens. But under the Clean Power Plan, each state’s electricity plan would have to meet EPA’s criteria for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Attorneys general Morrisey and Pruitt, and the panel of legal experts that testified before the Senate EPW committee, confirmed that this administration is overreaching, and we must fight this EPA power grab on every front. The need for action both legally and legislatively is clear.

This week, I will introduce an alternative approach with my Senate colleagues. This greenhouse gas legislation will preserve the proper balance of state and federal authority, help ensure reliable and affordable electricity, and protect jobs and our economy.

The devastating impacts of these misguided regulations are great, and the time to act is now.

Capito, R-W.Va., is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and chairs the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. This opinion piece originally appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail.


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