Last week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) aimed at terminating the previous administration’s so-called "Clean Power Plan" (CPP) as an instrument of war on fossil fuels — coal in particular. Final action on the proposed policy will follow a 60-day public comment and review period.
Pruitt emphasized, "We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate. Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule."
Premised entirely upon unsupportable climate benefits which even the former EPA head admitted would be only symbolic, CPP had mandated that the U.S. electric power sector reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Repeal of the Clean Power Plan is consistent with principles established by President Trump’s executive order to "suspend, revise, or rescind those [regulations] that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law."
As Pruitt noted, and as the Supreme Court observed when it stayed its implementation in 2016 on grounds that it would likely be overturned, CPP already violates federal law. He stated, "EPA will respect the limits of statutory authority. The CPP ignored states’ concerns and eroded longstanding and important partnerships that are a necessary part in achieving positive environmental outcomes. We can now assess whether further regulatory action is warranted; and, if so, what is the most appropriate path forward, consistent with the Clean Air Act and principles of cooperative federalism."
The Obama CPP strategy to get around the law applied a novel and expansive view of authority under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). That statute only authorized EPA to adopt emission-reduction guidelines for individual electrical power utility sources "inside the fence line." CPP, on the other hand, required power generating entities to comply with federally-approved statewide "outside the fence line" regulations, rather than just being applied to a particular facility.
As Marlo Lewis at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) points out, "CPP would necessitate changes to a state’s energy policy, such as a shift from coal-fired generation, and from fuel-fired generation to renewable resources."
Allowing the CPP to go forward would effectively nationalize control over power generation and consumption, thereby usurping authority previously exercised by individual states.
Compliance would require state legislatures to pass new laws or regulations to shift energy mixes from fossil fuels to heavily taxpayer — and ratepayer — subsidized wind and solar, impose costly and senseless carbon cap-and-trade programs — or both.
CPP’s mandated CO2 emission reductions were intentionally set at rates which few, if any, coal plants can achieve through changes in a facility’s technology or operations.
Compliance would require plant owners and operators either to invest in new renewable generation, or to purchase emission credits from renewable facilities. Those escalated cost burdens would, of course, be passed on to the public — including all energy-dependent businesses and low-income families.
The CPP was not only the centerpiece of the Obama war on coal, but also of a de facto war on the availability of affordable and abundant energy. Trump administration officials estimate that its repeal will provide up to $33 billion in avoided compliance costs by 2030.
CEI’s Myron Ebell urges that “Repealing the CPP will spur new investment and create new jobs in energy-intensive manufacturing and resource industries. States will now not be forced to close coal-fired power plants or replace them with more expensive and less reliable types of energy.”
Ebell observes, "While states like California and New York can continue down their chosen path of higher energy prices for consumers, repealing the 'Clean Power' Plan means that other states will not have to close down coal-fired power plants and thereby destroy jobs and impoverish consumers with higher electric rates."
There are encouraging signs that the U.S. Supreme Court is belatedly demonstrating impatience with EPA’s past abuses of statutory powers. Slapping down a 2012 rule to reduce mercury and other emissions targeted on killing the coal industry, they observed that "When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute unheralded power to regulate a significant portion of the economy, we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism."
Let’s recognize that Congress never intended EPA’s Clean Air Act to address a political and ideological agenda-driven delusion of a "climate pollution" calamity caused by essential CO2 molecules which support most life on our planet. At the same time, let’s also appreciate that EPA has had, and continues to have a vital role in protecting us and all of God’s creatures from real pollutants which must be controlled.
While doing so, EPA must finally be required to clean up its own act and to safeguard rules of law, states’ sovereignty, and free market competition from dirty crony-capital politics.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2012). Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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