Jul 21, 2015 - 1:30pm

Southeastern State Officials 'Just Say No' to EPA Carbon Regulations


Senior Editor, Digital Content

bloomberg_nd_electrical_towers_800px.jpg

Electricity towers in Underwood, North Dakota.
Photo credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

States continue to resist EPA’s overreaching carbon regulations. Officials in southeastern states strategized the best ways to fight back:

Momentum is building across the Southeast toward a "just say no" campaign for U.S. EPA's final Clean Power Plan rule, expected to be released within weeks.

A panel of lawmakers at the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) yesterday passed a resolution urging state attorneys general to sue EPA over the rule that targets existing power plants. Broadly, the rule calls for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, but targets for states vary.

States will have to write their own plans on how they are going to reduce their power sector CO2 emissions. If they do not, EPA will write the plan for them.

Del. Rupert "Rupie" Phillips, a Democrat from West Virginia, wrote the resolution, which passed SLC's energy and environment committee. His original measure urged states to not submit plans with EPA, but a compromise was struck to direct attorneys general to take legal action first.

"It's time to draw a line in the sand," Phillips said. "The EPA is pushing us around like they are a bunch of punks. I just want the states to stand together and say 'no.'"

States aren’t just worried about the job losses and economic damage from a less-reliable power grid. They also see EPA’s plan as a threat to state government sovereignty.

Dan Byers, Senior Director of Policy for the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, pointed out the many ways states are resisting:

In fact, led by West Virginia, 15 states have already taken the extraordinary step of suing to stop advancement of EPA's rule before it is even finalized. In addition, Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma has announced that Oklahoma will not submit a compliance plan to EPA, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he plans to challenge the EPA rule in court after it is finalized, and a number of states (Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri and others) have passed legislation restricting the form and manner of their state response to EPA.

This Institute for 21st Century report—“In Their Own Words: A Guide to States’ Concerns Regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulations for Existing Power Plants”—collects states’ objections to EPA’s carbon regulations.

Earlier this year, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) warned states to “think twice before submitting a state plan -- which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits." (Here are some excerpts from Sen. McConnell’s letter to governors.)

Such a threat is very real. In a RealClearEnergy op-ed Byers explained that EPA’s plan will make states vulnerable to “sue-and-settle” legal attacks from environmental groups:

[A]nything a state commits to as part of its compliance plan effectively comes under federal control, and enforcement and compliance actions on state energy efficiency or renewable energy programs can be imposed at the whim of an -EPA agreement. Even states acting in good faith could be subject to the sue-and-settle hammer as a result of factors entirely beyond their control. For example, in states that encounter unique circumstances or unexpected challenges that force deviation from their state plan--be it unexpected demand increases, renewable project delays, or something as minor as a modified monitoring and verification procedures--environmentalists will have a shiny new vehicle with which to drive states to Federal court (either directly or indirectly through a suit against EPA).

EPA is expected to finalize its carbon regulations as soon as August. Expect the legal battle to really heat up then.

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About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.