Here in Wisconsin, we do not have the luxury of Arizona’s sun exposure for solar power, nor do we have the open plains like Iowa and the Dakotas to yield a high margin of wind energy. In Wisconsin, we rely on coal, and it accounts for over 60 percent of our energy production in this state.
On Jan. 28, the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, along with the Senate Committee on Public Works, held a joint informational hearing to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed guidelines for states to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing electric generation units under the Clean Air Act. According to the EPA, under the guidance of President Obama, the plan will cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030 across the nation and by 34 percent in Wisconsin.
Throughout the hearing, we heard a number of alarming issues with the proposed plan. Specifically, we were told of the negative impact it will have on Wisconsin’s business community, as well as the average ratepayer. According to the Department of Natural Resources, as well as the Public Service Commission, this rule alone could cost Wisconsinites somewhere between $3.3 billion and $13.4 billion. Not only is this an astronomical cost that will put thousands of jobs at risk, but the timeline put in place by the EPA is unrealistic and unattainable.
According to testimony from the Wisconsin Utilities Association, $1.5 billion has been invested just since 2005 by Wisconsin’s largest utilities to improve air emissions from coal-fired plants. Under the plan, these advancements are not counted towards our reduction in emissions moving forward. Due to our advancements in protecting our environment and the investments already made, our most dependable source of energy, coal, could be largely eliminated over the next 15 years. The biggest contributor to our overall energy portfolio will be scaled back and reliability concerns will undoubtedly rise.
We appreciate the administration working to protect our environment, but as legislators we must ask at what cost? The National Economic Research Associates states that the global impact of these new regulations will slow global warming by less than two one-hundredths of a degree and reduce the sea level rise by one one-hundredth of an inch by year 2050. Of course our environment is important to the lives of Americans, but shouldn’t we try to find a balance between that and creating a positive business climate where job creation can flourish?
Wisconsin ranks second in manufacturing per capita in the country, with roughly 458,000 citizens working in the manufacturing field. Unfortunately, this rule will cause harm to a business sector that accounts for nearly 19 percent of Wisconsin’s gross domestic product. According to a recent release by The Beacon Hill Institute and the John K. MacIver Institute, the average industrial ratepayer in Wisconsin can be expected to pay an additional $105,094 by the year 2030. Further, nearly 21,000 jobs may be lost in the state and the disposable income of Wisconsin’s ratepayers will potentially drop $1.82 billion.
At a time when our country is still moving out of a recession, we must not look at miniscule environmental victories decades down the road. The issues that were raised at the hearing cannot go unnoticed and these regulations must be addressed prior to implementation.
In Gov. Scott Walker’s State of the State address, he pledged to join Governors across the country to initiate lawsuits against this massive overreach. I believe it might be in the best interest of the states to begin working on a plan. However, I stand firmly with Walker’s opposition against Obama’s war on the manufacturing and coal industries.
While the federal government continues to hamper our private sector with burdensome regulations like this, Wisconsin will continue to do its best to provide a welcoming business climate.
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- On February 20, 2015