CARROLLTON, Mo. –Twenty seven states opposing the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan have sued the EPA, including Missouri. They claim that the EPA exceeded its authority when issuing emissions rules for plants hoping to cut down carbon emissions.
KMZU’s Ashley Johnson spoke with Jeff Holmstead, former Assistant Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation and current head of the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell, LLP.
Jeff explains what the Clean Power Plan’s goal is for America. “The clean power plan is the Obama Administration’s attempt to completely reshape the U.S. electricity sector. They’ve taken a number of steps over the past seven and a half years to try to shut down coal fired power plants. This is really the capstone of that effort and what it would require is that about 30% of the nations existing coal fired power plants be shut down and there would be requirement to build new plants, primarily wind and solar plants to replace them.”
The Clean Air Act was not intended to be used as a basis for the EPA and the President to order the shut down of plants, and the rebuilding of plants. Holmstead says the EPA and President are going way beyond what they are aloud to do. “I have been working on clean air act issues since 1989, since really the modern age of the clean air act under both republican administrations and democratic administrations. Never before have we seen the EPA assert this kind of authority. We began to hear that EPA was thinking about this rule, which really is completely unprecedented. What the EPA really has the authority to do is to tell the owner of an industrial facility to install modern pollution controls. But here what they’ve done is order is basically order the whole industry to reshape itself.” He said this puzzled a lot of people because no one thought EPA would ever have the authority to do something like this.
The EPA has proposed this rule and finalized it, but the Supreme Court has stepped in for the first time in history to stop this rule until the courts have decided if the EPA can legally do this.
The big concern for the consumer is how much power bills will increase. Jeff said everyone knows it will increase bills, but it is disputed over when it comes to how much it will increase. “EPA claims that the cost will be modest, but I think most experts would say on average it would increase power bills by something in the range of 14%,” Jeff said. While that’s the national average, he said Missouri would see a bigger price hike due to its large reliance on coal. “I think the latest estimate I saw would be something like 20% for customers in Missouri.”
With the Supreme Court stepping in, states don’t have to worry about it right now. Jeff says it will be a big shock if the Supreme Court rules in the EPA’s favor, but even if they do states will have ample time to prepare.
One might say the Clean Power Plan would help global warming, but Jeff says, “No one believes that the Clean Power Plan itself will actually do anything to reduce global warming. I think EPA’s models would say it would reduce the level rise like the width of one sheet of paper. What they claim is by showing this kind of leadership, the President will get other countries to go along and reduce air emissions. That is where the vast majority of emissions are coming from right now, the developing world and especially China. This act in itself will do essentially nothing to reduce global warming. It’s much more symbolic than it is practical in terms of its impact on global climate change.”
A news release from Holmstead’s office states, “It is entirely possible that the Clean Power Plan could actually make the global environment worse.”
“Everyone admits that the Clean Power Plan will increase the cost of electricity in the United States. In some parts of the country, especially coal dependent states it will increase the cost quite a bit. There are many industries that are called energy intensive that use an enormous amount of electricity to produce their products. There is a concern that many of those industries if they stay in a high cost area will no longer be competitive and they will have no choice but to really move their operations to somewhere that does not have this stringent and expensive electricity.” Jeff says pushing businesses to off shore countries where they do not have as strict of standards as the United States will only make things worse for the environment.
To find out more information about this subject, Jeff recommends visiting electricreliability.org.
“There is no question that climate change is a serious issue, but it is the kind of issue that really needs to be addressed through legislation. This regulation will have all kinds of unintended consequences because you have the President and the Executive Branch acting on their own,” says Holmstead. “The way we have traditionally for 200 years have done policy in this country is there is a negotiation between the President and the branches of Congress. That’s really the kind of process that is needed if we’re going to be serious about address climate change.”