The PJ Tatler

Why is Sen. Lamar Alexander Siding with Obama's EPA?

Lamar! is going rogue. But not in a good way.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) took on the leader of his party tonight by opposing a GOP proposal to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency rule on clean air.

Alexander directly challenged an effort by the junior Senator from the neighboring state of Kentucky, the home of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He did so without naming McConnell, his longtime friend, but he was blunt about how Kentucky’s pollution adversely affects his own state.

“Tennesseans admire much about our Kentucky neighbors — their bluegrass, basketball and distinguished United States Senators,” Alexander said in a statement announcing opposition. “But we don’t want Kentucky’s state income tax. And we don’t want Kentucky’s dirty air. ”

Sen. Alexander is free to hate on Kentucky all he wants, the rest of the country really doesn’t have a dog in that fight. Using the EPA’s regulatory state is the wrong way to go about it though. Alexander is opposing the measure by KY Sen. Rand Paul, which would halt the EPA’s implementation of the cross-state pollution rule. That’s the rule that the EPA has rammed through without much chance for the states or utilities to respond, and in Texas’ case, despite the EPA’s own science which showed that Texas’ air doesn’t even impact other states. It’s a component of Obama’s overall strategy to make conventional power sources, and in particular coal, so expensive that Americans are forced onto “green” sources. Not coincidentally, Obama has already been busy rewarding major Democratic donors with DoE loans to “green” boondoggles like Solyndra. Surely there’s enough in all that for a Republican to oppose Obama’s EPA moves.

Sen. Alexander isn’t just opposing Paul’s move. He’s working across the aisle to enable the EPA.

Alexander also released a letter today urging support for legislation that would enact the proposed rule into law. Alexander and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) are working together on the measure, which would give utilities an additional year to implement it.

“We are writing to invite you to join us in bi-partisan legislation that provides a better approach: enact the clean air rule into law, but give utilities one additional year to comply with it,” the letter said. “Our approach would provide certainty and cleaner air at the lowest possible cost to ratepayers.”

Why doesn’t “working across the aisle” ever mean a Democrat is betraying his party?

One major problem with the cross-state rule is its likely impact on electric rates and jobs.

According to one study, four major pollution rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would cost the United States 183,000 jobs. That comes to four jobs lost for every “green job” projected to be created by the regulations.

The study also projected that as a result of the regulations, electricity rates in Tennessee and Kentucky — which rely in large part on coal for electricity — could rise by nearly 14 percent by 2020. That is more than twice the expected rate increase nationwide, and that could make it harder for our region to compete for new industry.

Lamar! is getting this one very wrong.