Congress looks to Rein in the EPA

One of EPA’s main tactics in their assault on affordable energy is to get utilities, Public Utility Commissions, and others to implement a regulation before the courts have time to rule on its legality. If EPA can get power plant owners and other regulators to move fast enough, EPA can achieve its goal of closing affordable and reliable power plants before the courts even rule on the regulation. This is what happened with EPA’s MATS rule and is what EPA is trying to achieve with their regulation of carbon dioxide from power plants, even though the Supreme Court has stayed the rule. Congress has stood on the sidelines and let EPA go too far for too long, but Congress is starting to push back on EPA’s overreach.

While the MATS case was being heard in the courts, 40 gigawatts of electricity generation capacity prematurely closed to comply with the rule—that’s enough electricity capacity to power 30 million American homes. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled against EPA (the Supreme Court case did not overturn the rule, but required EPA to look at certain costs), but the damage was already done

Similarly, the Supreme Court imposed a stay on EPA’s regulation of carbon dioxide from power plants—what EPA’s PR team calls their “Clean Power Plan.” This stay means that all of the deadlines and other requirements of the regulation are put on hold until after the Supreme Court rules on the regulation.

Despite the Supreme Court’s stay, EPA would still like states to continue implementing the regulation. Administrator McCarthy testified before Congress in March and gave coy answers to questions about the tolling of deadlines under EPA’s regulation. When asked about whether the regulation’s deadlines were tolled, McCarthy said, “Well that’s not what the Supreme Court said, but we assume that the courts will make that judgement over time or will leave that to EPA to make their own judgement.” When she was pressed further, she responded, “. . . the Supreme Court didn’t speak to that issue. The only thing they spoke to was the stay of the rule. They didn’t speak to any tolling or what it meant in terms of compliance time.”

Responding to this evasive and murky testimony, Rep. Ratcliffe organized a letter signed by 112 Representatives asking McCarthy to explicitly clarify EPA’s position on the implications of the stay of the regulation of carbon dioxide from power plants. This effort should be applauded. It is a good reminder that EPA and other regulatory agencies’ job is to carry out the will of the American people as expressed through law passed by Congress—not carry out their own regulatory agenda. Congress has let EPA and regulatory agencies go too far. Hopefully this effort marks the beginning of a renewed effort from Congress to rein in EPA’s excessive overreach.

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