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Political Aspects of the Clean Power Plan

“I've got a pen, and I've got a phone.” – Barack Obama

The name “Clean Power Plan” would suggest it is about clean electrical power, and, ostensibly, it is.

“The EPA has become a rogue political arm of the White House,”
Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman, House Subcommittee on Energy and Power

But the CPP is really about political power. In 2009, the (Democratically controlled) House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which would have established a cap and trade system in the United States. It never got to the floor of the (Democratically controlled) Senate. The Clean Power Plan is an attempt by the EPA and the Obama administration to get by bureaucratic fiat what they could not get from Congress.

Congress cannot rein in the EPA. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, introduced two resolutions to do so, HJR 71 and HJR 72. On November 17,Rep. Lummis signed on as one of over a hundred co-sponsors. However, it should be no surprise that President Obama vetoed them. Congress failed to override his vetos. Congress is stymied unless we have a president who will sign such a resolution.

The CPP imposes CO2reductions between now and 2030 on a state by state basis, ranging from no reduction (Alaska, Vermont) to 48% (South Dakota). Here are the states in the 40+% range, the ones hardest hit:

State

Target

State

Target

CO

40

WY

44

NE

40

KS

44

MN

40

IL

44

TN

40

ND

45

WI

41

MT

47

KY

41

SD

48

IA

42

   

These are mostly midwestern states. Major coal producers like Wyoming (339 million short tons, 2000) and Kentucky (131) are on the list, but West Virginia (158) is not.

The CPP is also an end run around the courts. Sure, people can sue. 27 states (including Wyoming), 24 national trade associations, 37 rural co-ops, and three labor unions representing a million membershave joined a suit against the CPP. But so what? Lead time on the kinds of work necessary to comply are such that states and power generators must start now to comply. In Michigan v. EPA, the Supreme Court voided EPA's mercury rules. None the less, 40 gigawatts of power generation were prematurely shut down despite the ongoing legal wrangle. Similarly, even if the CPP is eventually voided by the courts, utilities will spend billions of investors' and ratepayers' dollars to comply. So the EPA gets compliance even if the CPP is declared void.

We've already shown that this will be vastly expensive. Are people willing to pay that expense? According to MWR Strategies in July, 2015, the median that survey respondents are willing to pay to reduce US reliance on conventional fuels is $10 per year. 37% are not willing to pay anything. If the CPP is an effort to sneak the costs in disguised as a rate increase, it has already failed. 93% of Americans understand that rate payers will bear the costs.

Finally, this is a paradigm shift, from the “cooperative federalism” under which the EPA originally operated, to coercive federalism. Under coercive federalism, the states are merely administrative regions for an all-powerful federal government. And that is sufficient reason to oppose the Clean Power Plan.

Indeed, almost every proffered solution to any environmental problem, whether it be global warming today or global cooling in the 1970s, is increased government. The only environmental outfit I know of that consistently produces free market and freedom oriented solutions to environmental problems is the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). In fact they don't take any government funding. So aside from PERC, Ihave to wonder: are these the same people who used to call for big government on behalf of the proletariat only now they use polar bears and dolphins to sell big government? And is this because polar bears and dolphins are cuddlier than the proletariat ever were?

Mr. Obama was technically correct when he famously said, “I am not a dictator, I'm the President”, but his disclaimer rings hollow.

Nor is the United States' economy and freedoms the only ones at stake. I've already described the connection between the CPP and the UN.

"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution. That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 - you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation."
Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Next: The Supreme Court's Surprise.

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