WATERS: States should light federalism’s candles, curse EPA’s darkness

Posted by on April 17, 2015
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Jim Waters head

Did you hear the one about Washington’s power outage that caused the Department of Energy to go dark?

The day Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced his presidential run, the electricity went out in a wide swath of Washington, stranding frightened people on elevators, causing traffic lights to go dark at the busiest intersections and there – in the Washington Post – was a photo of scores of DOE employees leaving work as the building was shut down.

During past blackouts, backup power was supplied by the Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria, Va. But the station was shut down after becoming a target of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s wacky “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Of course, a man with Bloomberg’s resources can conveniently ignore blackouts and pretend there’s no cost to killing coal.

But the head of the D.C. public utility commission doesn’t enjoy that luxury, telling Congress three years ago that her staff “prayed for mild weather” during the summer so that air conditioners don’t overload the grid.

Americans might also want to pray that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., succeeds in his efforts to get the nation’s governors to ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s unconstitutional and likely illegal attempt to force states through its Clean Power Plan (CPP) to submit their plans for achieving a whopping 30-percent reduction in carbon emissions at existing power plants.

In a letter to governors, the Senate Majority Leader outlines his “serious policy and legal concerns” with the EPA’s dictate:

  • Quoting Obama supporter and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe’s assertion that the CPP is “constitutionally reckless,” McConnell rightly notes the EPA is trying to force states to do more concerning carbon-emissions reductions “than what the agency would be authorized to do on its own.”

Tribe, who taught the first-ever course in environmental law in the United States, warns the EPA’s plan “usurps the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts – all at once.”

  • The EPA’s mandate for states goes beyond long-established legal boundaries.

While the Supreme Court has permitted the agency to regulate carbon dioxide by requiring improved efficiencies at coal-fired power plants through the installation of pollution-control technology such as smokestack scrubbers, it never allowed for policies forcing coal plants to close or mandating quotas for conservation through unreliable energy sources like wind and solar.

  • The EPA admits it cannot quantify “and has refused to estimate the impact” that the CPP would have on its stated goal of addressing global warming.

If the EPA itself cannot provide evidence that its plan will positively impact global warming, why should states act with any urgency?

The reason, as McConnell articulates, is that the feds hope that by pushing states to propose their own compliance plans – which the EPA has ruled must be “federally enforceable” – Washington can wrest control of energy policy away from the states, further weakening our federalist system.

  • The CPP’s price tag is astronomical, including double-digit electricity rate increases in at least 43 states with total costs of nearly $479 billion over 15 years.

McConnell notes that the EPA’s proposal “is projected to shrink (Kentucky’s) economy by almost $2 billion, jeopardizing electricity delivery and throwing countless individuals out of work. Its impact would be devastating at a moment when the Kentucky coal industry has already shed nearly 8,000 jobs.”

While the blackout was occurring in Washington, Sen. Paul was in Louisville declaring that those who still care about freedom “need to go boldly forth under the banner of liberty that clutches the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other,” understanding that Washington is “broken” and “can’t be fixed from within. We the people must rise up and demand action.”

A good place for such an uprising to begin might be on the steps of the arrogant and out-of-control EPA in Washington.

If you decide to show up, you might want to bring along a candle – just in case.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

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Jim Waters

Jim Waters

President at Bluegrass Institute
Jim Waters is President of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free market think tank. Jim uses his significant media experience as a reporter, editor and broadcaster at newspapers and radio stations in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio to grow the institute’s influence in Frankfort and its impact statewide. Jim is often quoted in the state’s major media sources on public policy issues and writes the Bluegrass Beacon, a weekly newspaper column that appears in publications statewide.

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