States Show Best Path to Reject Obama’s Carbon Rule

President Obama recently announced the EPA’s final “Clean Power Plan,” the cornerstone of his radical climate agenda. The plan forces states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by closing down coal-fired power plants and generating electricity from more expensive sources. The administration has called on states to submit implementation plans indicating how they intend to meet emission targets, while many states plan to sue on the basis that federal bureaucrats have no right to dictate state energy choices.

Now, states are faced with the choice of whether or not to submit a plan to the EPA that will raise the price of electricity, increase job losses, and transfer authority over the energy grid from states to the federal government. Six governors have already indicated they do not intend to submit a plan, while more than 25 states have introduced bills creating legislative hurdles.

Obama wants states to believe the choice is between submitting a state plan or having a federal plan imposed on you. This is false. The real choice is whether to prematurely implement this costly regulation before the courts decide its fate. States that take the “wait-and-see” approach protect their citizens from federal overreach, while those who rush to help Obama implement the regulation are handing over control to the federal government.

The Danger of Premature Implementation

Rather than helping the Obama administration implement this costly regulation, states should exercise their right not to submit a plan until the legal challenges are resolved. This is well within a state’s right under the Clean Air Act—EPA does not even dispute this point. Recently, the heads of three state think tanks—Brett Healy at the MacIver Institute (Wisconsin), Rea Hederman at the Buckeye Institute (Ohio), and Kevin Kane at the Pelican Institute (Louisiana)—emphasized this point in an op-ed titled “A State Plan to Defeat Obama’s Climate Agenda”:

“Given the shaky legal ground on which the rule rests, President Obama knows that success or failure hinges on whether states submit plans or wait. To that end, in its final rule EPA promises to “reward” states that submit early plans with emission credits they can bank or sell in a cap-and-trade system… [this] will also commit states to costly investments that cannot be reversed, even if the courts invalidate the rule down the road…

…In the coming months, states will face pressure from EPA and special interests to sign on the dotted line, as if they have no other choice. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As our leaders have shown, refusing to submit a plan until the courts weigh in is a state’s legal right under the Clean Air Act. Divided the states fall, but united in opposition to Obama’s costly carbon agenda, the states can protect their citizens from federal overreach and higher utility bills.”

The Obama administration knows that states have the option to submit a plan at any point in the process, even after courts have made a decision. The administration’s hope is that rather than adopting a “wait-and-see” approach, states will develop plans early and begin implementing them before courts have had a chance to issue a ruling. This would render any legal victory meaningless, as was the case in the recent ruling on mercury regulations.

Michigan: A Case Study of How to Help Obama

Recently, Governor Snyder (R-MI) directed the state environmental agency to develop an implementation plan for Michigan. Snyder called the decision the “best way” to ensure Michigan “retains control of its energy future.” In fact, this rush to regulate will cede control to federal regulators and put Michigan families at risk for dramatically higher energy bills. As Professor Christopher Douglas of the University of Michigan-Flint highlights in an op-ed for The Detroit News, implementing Obama’s carbon regulation prematurely “invites a federal energy takeover”:

“Beyond its legal infirmities, the rule is an economic disaster. Implementing it will require Michigan to uproot our electricity system, replacing low-cost coal that comprises almost half of our power with more expensive sources. An economic analysis of the proposed rule found it would raise electric rates on Michigan households by 12 percent, or about $140 per year. The final rule is even more severe, so costs will likely be higher.

By rushing to help Obama implement his rule, Michigan has little to gain but much to lose. It will ensure Obama’s EPA gets to mandate its favored energy sources while inflicting huge economic costs on Michiganians that cannot be undone if the courts later invalidate the rule.”


Now that the carbon regulation is final, states are facing pressure from EPA to submit plans by Sept. 2016. States should resist this temptation—acting now comes with definite costs, but there is no penalty for waiting. Michigan’s rush to help Obama implement his carbon regulation invites federal bureaucrats into state affairs, while the actions of states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Louisiana to reject premature implementation preserve state sovereignty. Instead of offering support to EPA by submitting state implementation plans prematurely, state leaders should join with those who oppose Obama’s costly carbon regulation and refuse to submit a plan until all legal challenges are resolved.

For more information on what state leaders are doing to protect your interests, click here.

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