The EPA and How to Stop It

The Obama Administration is finalizing a series of regulations through the EPA that are possibly the most damaging of his presidency- to individuals, to the economy, and to the country.  Those regulations are designed to decrease greenhouse gases from power plants.  The impetus for this power grab by the EPA- an executive branch agency- is predicated on a series of deceptions by the administration.  They insist that climate change represents the number one threat to our security and that the population also considers it a major threat.  However, this would be totally in contradiction of every poll conducted on this subject.  In a Gallup poll, climate change ranked next to last on a list of 20 items of concern to Americans.

Never mind the fact that all the calamities that were to befall the planet have failed to materialize thus far as predicted by the climate change fear mongers, but if these regulations were to go into effect, it is estimated that they would have an effect of 0.02 degrees Celsius.  For example, the United Nations said that climate change would be directly attributable to 50 million refugees by 2010.  Well, we are still waiting.

Obama and the environmental Left loons are touting a recent handshake agreement between the US and China to decrease greenhouse gases.  They ignore the fact that China is seriously short on specifics.  Every international agreement thus far places the economic burden on a handful of developed countries.  They say nothing about 150 other developing countries.  In the past, both China and India have thumbed their noses at these agreements.  Because they (the administration) sees this as a major issue, they are taking this foolish unilateral action.

This is expected to have a serious effect on jobs and the American economy at a time when neither can afford any blows.  While Obama and company are touting how they have rebuilt the economy and celebrate monthly job gains, they now look to tear that “progress” asunder.  Because they will be phased in over time, the effects will not be greatly discerned.  But they should eventually cost over 330,000 high-paying, largely unionized manufacturing jobs.  Furthermore, the loss of jobs will be particularly hard felt in 11 states: California, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Indiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Georgia.

In 2015, the hit to the economy would be a measly $30 billion, but if fully implemented as planned through 2030, the aggregate cost would be $2.64 TRILLION. And for what?  A 0.02 degree Celsius change in global temperatures?

So what are the tools at our disposal to stop this misguided policy and power grab?  The first step are the courts.  The administration has been drafting the rules so as to avoid future legal challenges.  Several environmental laws have actually ended up before the Supreme Court of late with mixed results.  The Court has, on occasion, admonished the EPA for straying outside their statutory authority, but still have allowed that agency great deference.  Still, we can use the courts to delay and obstruct implementation of the regulations.  This would simply be stealing a page from the environmental Left’s playbook when it comes to blocking “progress.”

Secondly, the Congress always has the power of the purse to flex their muscles.  Attaching riders to appropriation bills has a certain appeal since they must be passed and signed into law by Obama lest the government shuts down.  If Obama vetoes a spending bill passed by Congress solely because of a rider that reigns in a not-particularly popular agency like the EPA, then the fault for the shutdown falls squarely on one man- Obama.  There is, however, some political risk involved.  Would the GOP have the backbone to allow the government to shut down and most likely be blamed for it?  They could attempt to over-ride a veto should Obama win the bluffing game, but an override is unlikely.

A third avenue of attack is the Congressional Review Act which allows Congress the opportunity to stop the implementation of a rule shortly after it is finalized.  Again, Obama would have to sign such legislation which is not likely to garner a veto-proof majority.  Too many Democratic Senators (and some Republicans) have drank too much of the climate change hysteria Kool-Aid.  This would most likely be a delaying tactic that would take up precious congressional time.

The fourth avenue is way too dependent on future events- namely, the 2016 presidential election.  Since this is an executive branch agency rule change in response to an executive branch policy, a future president with a different policy and agenda could simply undo the rule change. Or they could take a page from the Obama playbook, simply use prosecutorial discretion and direct the EPA not to enforce the rule.  But again, one would have to hope that a Republican wins in 2016 or that a Democrat would be committed to doing this (hardly likely).

The best solution lies with the states.  The Clean Air Act requires states to develop implementation plans with respect to the power sector.  Many states have signaled an unwillingness to comply- Texas and North Dakota being two known states.  What if states simply refused to comply?  After all, most of the states most heavily affected are states with Republican Governors.

The EPA has no statutory authority to impose sanctions on states that refuse to comply.  Like any agency, the federal government cannot compel participation in a federal regulatory scheme; they can only incentivize participation and compliance.  Perhaps the greatest “stick” the EPA has is to withhold highway funds, but that may even end up in court.

The federal government could step in if a state refuses or drags their feet.  But whether they would is another question altogether.  For example, the EPA is prohibited from doing certain things.  They cannot tell a power plant to amp up their output which would be necessary to replace the lost generation from plants found not to be in compliance with the federally-instituted plans.

The Federalist Society uses Oklahoma as an example.  This is a state that gets almost all their electricity from coal or natural gas.  The EPA plan assumes that Oklahoma will replace roughly half their coal-produced generation with conversion to natural gas by 2020.  Once the rule is finalized in 2015, Oklahoma would have until 2016 to have an implementation plan, but they refuse in our hypothetical and the federal government steps in.  Does the EPA want to really order every coal generating plant in Oklahoma to cut their output by half to reach the carbon emission goals?  That would wipe out 20% of the state’s generation.  In a best case scenario (for the EPA) with respect to Florida it would require that they cut coal generation by 90%.  If that were to pass, it would force the closure of several plants that have recently invested over $2 billion in pollution controls.  That would all be for naught.

Finally, the date for EPA action on state plans would be June, 2017- six months into a new administration.  Does Obama want to make this a campaign issue for the Democratic candidate?  Would a new administration actually order enforcement?  While the EPA has imposed federal plans in the past, they nowhere come near the scope and complexity here.  As the Federalist Society points out, a refusal to comply would leave the state no less well off than they are now.  Other than option #4, a combination of the other options is probably the best way to proceed.  Considering the costs to manufacturing jobs, the economy and the cost to consumers, this is one area where obstruction is a very good thing.