March 2, 2016

166 Reasons to Throw Out the Costly Power Plan

Heath Knakmuhs

As one of the lead petitioners in the landmark case against the unprecedented effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restructure America's electricity sector, the U.S. Chamber is well-versed in the many legal problems with the agency's so-called Clean Power Plan. 

We’re not the only ones.  There has been incredible nationwide interest in what might be the Administration’s most significant regulatory overreach – no small feat.  Nearly 160 Petitioners have filed suit against EPA’s rule, including 27 states that are part of the lawsuit in opposition to the EPA.  (A 28th state – Nevada – just filed a brief in support of the others).  In addition, 34 U.S. Senators and 171 members of the House of Representatives joined together last week to contest the legality of EPA’s besieged Clean Power Plan. 

However, perhaps the best demonstration of the incredible breadth of opposition to the Rule comes in the form of an amicus brief filed by state and local Chambers.

This map depicts the 166 state and local business associations which together are “natural allies” in the fight against the EPA’s costly power plan.  These groups represent the businesses and consumers across forty states that will be on the hook to pay the price of EPA’s “blunderbuss approach” to twisting a little-used section of the Clean Air Act into a command-and-control scheme to dictate every aspect of arguably the most important input (i.e. electricity) to our national economy.  Coming from states with significant economic activity at stake as a result of EPA’s unprecedented plan, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Texas Business Association, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce led the charge to ensure that both large and small, and urban and rural, business associations will be heard by the federal court that will deliberate the legality of the EPA’s plan this summer.  The breadth and diversity of this group is evident from the below list.    

While the merits of the arguments presented should ultimately govern the Court’s decision regarding the legality of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, what is likely the largest collection of state and local business groups to ever file an amicus brief with the Court serves to put all stakeholders on notice as to the significant economic and political significance of the rule under review. 

Unfortunately, EPA continues to ignore the unprecedented opposition to its attempt to take over the nation’s electricity system, instead sticking its head in the sand regarding the fact that the Supreme Court has issued a stay halting the implementation of EPA’s rule until the completion of judicial review.  Seemingly speaking from another planet, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this week stated at Harvard University that the headwinds “didn’t mean that anything on the ground really had changed,” and that “[l]ife is continuing [in] the exact same direction it was before the stay.”  For the EPA and its Clean Power Plan, ignorance is bliss.

The EPA’s recalcitrance in the face of so much opposition may just be the logical outgrowth of the agency’s “catch me if you can” regulatory approach.  The EPA seeks to relive recent history, by again driving massive power plant shutdowns with an overreaching regulation that is later adjudged unlawful, as happened with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Rule.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court saw past the EPA’s modus operandi this time.  After all, most of us were taught from a very young age that “two wrongs do not make a right.”

Kudos to those who stood up in favor of reliable, affordable electricity.  It is increasingly unfortunate that the EPA chooses not to hear these voices, but at least the Court will now have the opportunity to do so.