By Will Newton, NFIB/Texas Executive Director, Special for USDR
Ask any child who has recently sat in a government class, “Who writes our nation’s laws?” If they passed the class, they’ll say “Congress.” So, if a major nationwide effort to fundamentally change the way power plants are governed in the U.S. was happening, you think Congress would be involved. You would be wrong.
The Obama administration just finalized and released a vast plan, from the Environmental Protection Agency, that will require states to switch power generation from reliable fossil fuel sources to unproven and expensive alternative sources. This effort was done without any consent from Congress. In fact, bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate oppose the plan.
The last time Congress seriously considered a proposal like the power plant rule was in 2009. It barely passed the House of Representatives and didn’t even get a vote in the Senate. Who was in charge back then? Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Even when the President commanded large majorities in both chambers, Congress would not agree to such a radical plan.
This represents an abuse of our constitution and endangers our small business-based economy. For these reasons, the National Federation of Independent Business is suing the EPA to stop this rule before it destroys jobs and livelihoods.
The President can’t radically rewrite an old law to suit his needs. The Clean Air Act was first passed by Congress more than 50 years ago. Congress has a strong record of updating the act to suit the times. The law was updated in 1970 and substantively amended in 1977 and 1990. But now, perhaps the greatest change to the size and scope of the law is being carried out without Congressional action.
The act gives the EPA authority over existing power plants. It doesn’t give them the power to determine the future structure of our power grid.
The new regulation forces states to adopt new power plans that could significantly increase costs to businesses in their states. And let’s not forget that state governments themselves purchase electricity. This regulation represents a new unfunded mandate on states, many of whom—unlike the federal government—are required to balance their budgets every year.
In his first run for the White House, the President said that under his plan, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Well, that is what will happen if we don’t stop this rule from going into effect.
There is practically no way that a coal-fired power plant can meet the EPA’s unrealistic new standards. Since these plants represent nearly 40 percent of generation in the U.S., a forced switch will cost $8.4 billion annually. Those costs will get passed on to both consumers and businesses.
The National Black Chamber of Commerce estimates that average energy costs for residential customers could rise by over $1,200 by 2030. For energy intensive businesses, the costs could go even higher. We don’t fully understand that impact of the rule because the EPA didn’t even properly study how it would affect small employers. They considered only the direct effects on small power generation facilities, not the indirect costs that would be paid by millions of small business owners. The NFIB filed comments with the EPA pointing out this oversight. Those comments were completely ignored.
The President’s plan almost completely ignores the progress America has made to move toward cleaner fuels. The EPA admits that the electricity market “is already changing.” In the last decade, America reduced “total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.” Even coal has gotten cleaner as monthly CO2emissions from coal-fired plants recently reached a 27-year low.
So, the new rule isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s also unnecessary. We’ve asked for an immediate stay of the power plant rule before it works its destructive power on our economy. If the President wants to fundamentally change the country, he must work with Congress to enact new law. He can’t just cut Congress out of the equation.
All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.