States, Senate Ready to Fight Obama's Clean Power Plan

Coal Mines Climate

Way before President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy put the finishing touches on the Clean Power Plan, the Texas Public Policy Foundation was figuring out a way to stop it.

The Obama administration unveiled the Clean Power Plan on Monday, calling it “a historic step in the fight against climate change.”

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. It sets what the EPA and White House describe as “flexible and achievable standards” to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Opponents argue it is yet another assault in what they describe as the Obama/EPA War On Coal.

Coal industry sources say 74,000 jobs could be lost in Colorado alone because of the effort to cut CO2 pollution.

The coal industry also predicts that the carbon rule will significantly increase the cost of electricity hurting consumers — especially low-income families — businesses, and communities.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Fueling Freedom Project has proposed creating an Interstate Power Compact, which would give all of the states opposed to the Clean Power Plan the constitutional authority to ignore it.

It would prevent the EPA from enforcing any federal plan in states that refuse to submit to the plan, and would prohibit states in the compact from submitting compliance plans for the Clean Power Plan to the EPA.

“The Interstate Power Compact is a powerful tool to protect Texas and all states from the EPA’s unconstitutional and overreaching proposed federal carbon rule so-called the Clean Power Plan,” said Doug Domenech, the director of TPPF’s Fueling Freedom Project.

“This compact also let states develop a dynamic, self-regulatory system that remains flexible enough to address changing needs,” he added.

Shannon Fisk, the managing attorney at Earthjustice, an environmental group that backs the Clean Power Plan, admitted to Inside Climate News the Texas Public Policy Foundation has come up with “a novel approach,” but stressed “it’s not a real threat.”

Perhaps not. But it is just one of a long list of ideas being floated by conservative political and business organizations, along with politicians who say the Clean Power Plan will crush their states’ coal industries.

"Montana could lead the nation in coal production,” Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) asserted, “but unfortunately President Obama and his EPA are waging a more aggressive war on coal than they are against ISIS.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who spoke out strongly against the first iteration of the Clean Power Plan in 2014, released a new statement in which he said, "I have serious concerns that the Obama administration's regulations will have devastating consequences for Montana energy jobs, Montana tribes and union workers, and Montana families' access to affordable energy.”

When Daines was a congressman running to replace Montana Democratic Sen. John Walsh in 2014, he introduced legislation that was intended to block the Clean Power Plan.

In the press release announcing that proposal, Daines pointed to a statement from the AFL-CIO-affiliated United Mine Workers of America, arguing that the EPA rules “will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others without achieving any significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Now that he is in the Senate, Daines most recently backed another package of legislation that he said would help expand Montana energy production, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and “rein in the Obama administration's overreaching anti-energy regulations.”

It isn’t just Daines, Zinke, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation that want to block the Clean Power Plan.

Even before it was announced, 14 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit to stop it and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged a nationwide boycott of the Clean Power Plan.

“This costly proposed regulation is aimed squarely at the lifeblood of the commonwealth’s economy and the livelihoods of Coal Country workers and their families. Taken together with other Washington regulations that are already having a devastating impact, it’s impossible not to conclude that the Obama administration is engaging in all-out economic warfare on these communities,” said McConnell.

“I will continue to do all I can to fight back against the Obama administration’s repeated and gratuitous attacks on Kentuckians whose only crime is working hard to maintain a reliable source of energy and provide for their families,” he added.

But who needs a boycott? McConnell has also suggested a bureaucratic jujitsu move to turn the power of the Clean Air Act against the EPA. He cited a little-known provision that McConnell believes calls on Congress to approve the Clean Power Plan.