The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed new rule yesterday pursuant to section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act) that seeks to change the way electricity is generated and to push its cost up so alternative, renewable and more expensive forms of energy can be used. It intends to impose a state-by-state carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction goal for existing fossil fueled electric generating facilities. Depending on what piece you are reading, it is all in the name of preventing the climate from its inexorable change, a health initiative or a giant jobs creator.
Under the proposed rule, EPA would require states to meet CO2 emission “goals” or targets starting in 2020 on a statewide basis. States could allow their power plants to use a number of measures to meet those goals, including energy efficiency, plant retirements, and renewable energy. EPA projects power sector emission reductions of 30 percent from 2005 levels by the 2030.
The action is very controversial with the sides clearly drawn. The cry of a “war on coal” is in the air. Indeed, one of the purposes of the dictat is to reduce the use of coal. However, this is a much larger issue, a more insidious issue. It is about government growth, influencing or controlling the means of production. I have no doubt the sincerity of some of those who believe reduction of carbon dioxide, a pollutant that living organisms also produce, is the solution to ensure the civilization survives. I simply do not know.
The Government is proceeding using a little used provision of the Clean Air Act that was never intended to be used for this purpose. The action will be challenged in Court for years but like most things, in the end, the government will prevail. As in most government action, there will be winners and losers. However, on thing is clear, the results will be higher, artificially induced cost of the use of electricity.
Those that oppose this proposed rule, its adverse impact are powerless to mitigate its consequence much less stop it. That is the price of an arrogant system that goes on not caring of the consequences of its actions. With nations like China and India and charcoal burning for all kinds of things in third world countries, this unilateral action is ineffective except for making costs go up here and eventually making producing businesses to seek other venues. A real legacy, indeed.
Politically, the opposition will roar. States that depend on coal fired generated electricity will howl. This included both Republicans and Democrats. Again, the Administration does not care. They are immune to criticism. After the Rule becomes final in a year or more, it opponents will use a procedure called the Congressional Review Act to repeal the regulation. The law allows CRA resolutions to pass with only 51 votes, and it cannot be kept from being considered, even under the no-amendment tyrants in the Senate leadership. Even if it did pass, there is no doubt the President would veto it.
Trying to repeal the measure by other means or measure would also elicit a veto. Therefore, like it or not, Congress is impotent to counteract the regulatory juggernaut.