Take a Hike, Republicans (and enjoy that clean air provided by the Clean Air Act)

by mfyfe on October 30, 2015 - 4:36pm

Obama’s climate change plan, launched mid-2013 and recently fully published, is under attack by 24 states and the republicans, as recently reported by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent in her article Obama’s carbon reduction plan under attack by 24 states and Republicans.  The plan’s vice in their eyes?  That they will actually have to reduce carbon emissions, especially targeting coal power plants.  This really shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, considering the efforts of so many other countries to move to cleaner forms of energy.

The new rules put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 32% by 2030 from 2005 levels – a great challenge, but without these regulations there is no knowing if such a feat could be accomplished by other, less aggressive instruments.

Many lawsuits from coal groups and almost half of the US states have been filed against the EPA, stating that the EPA is “…exceeding its authority” by requiring states to lower their carbon emissions; this means that power companies with have to shut the doors on coal-fired power plants and source electricity from cleaner forms of energy production.  Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general, stated that “… the Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation’s history”.

A Republican Senator from North Dakota stated that he was going to put forth two separate resolutions challenging the rules for new and existing power plants, clearly upset that these rules would make it virtually impossible to open any new plants in his state.  The EPA’s response is basically unsympathetic, as it should be.

The EPA is confident that they are on solid legal ground and are ready to beat back the challenges against this clean energy plan.  Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator, stated that “…the Clean Power Plan has strong scientific and legal foundations, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plants, and is clearly within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.”  Even so, the Senate is looking to vote down the new rules as soon as it can.  And the White House response?  They will then veto congress’s decision to overturn the EPA rules.  There is a lot of back and forth, but it is great to see the government standing up against the Senate and Congress, and standing up for what they know is right.

Clearly, these rules put in place are necessary as opposition is so determined to stick with their carbon-pollution ways of energy production.  The EPA is using regulatory instruments which rely on legislation to prohibit certain types of behaviour to control negative activities like pollution and resource extraction.  It is assumed that the government is best placed to make these decisions and that these regulations are needed because there is otherwise no motivation for industry to make the right choices on their own.  In this case, these assumptions are especially true; the coal industry knows it is damaging to the environment but has historically done very little to change this.  Without rules put in place and governed by the EPA, is it unlikely that emissions would ever be decreased by the goal of 32%. 

Some critiques of regulatory instruments are that it is overly authoritarian, ignores other knowledge and perspectives and is inefficient (expensive).  Gina McCarthy addressed these sentiments in her statement above and I have to agree with her.  Perhaps it may seem that these rules are over-authoritarian, but are in actuality within the EPA’s authority in the Clean Air Act.

Seeing all of this opposition proves that deep-systematic change was not going to come about naturally, and so strict regulation is really all that Obama had left in his arsenal in order to move on with his climate change plans.  There will seemingly always be opposition to emissions reduction plans when it puts industry in the hole; maybe regulation is all that is really left that will make a change.  Industry, Senators and the Republicans: take a hike.

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/23/obama-carbon-coal-power-plant-epa-lawsuit-republicans


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