Recently, President Barack Obama laid out the final version of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan — and it’s tougher on coal-dependent states than originally anticipated.
Both the EPA and the Obama administration have been in full public-relations mode lately, and both have completely ignored the very real costs to local economies and vulnerable residents in coal-powered states, like Ohio, that the Clean Power Plan will create.
The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to cut carbon emissions 32 percent by 2030 — two percentage points more than in the original version of the rule. The EPA is seeking to accomplish this by forcing state environmental protection agencies to develop plans on how they will reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced in their states, and then having the state agencies send those plans to the federal EPA so that they can enforce implementation.
Few will be hurt more than the residents of the state of Ohio if the Clean Power Plan is implemented.
Only Texas generates more electricity from coal-powered plants than Ohio does. More than 67 percent of Ohio’s energy comes from coal, and the industry employs several thousand Ohioans.
In order for Ohio to comply with the Clean Power Plan regulation, it would likely need to shutter many of its coal power plants and/or spend billions retrofitting them with carbon-capture technologies. Even with tax subsidies, the type of power plants encouraged by the Clean Power Plan can be extremely expensive and produce energy below capacity.
These enormous costs will always be passed on to consumers in the form of higher utility bills, which disproportionately affects low- and fixed-income households.
A study conducted by the Black Chamber of Commerce found that, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will lead to $565 billion in higher annual electricity costs – and higher electricity costs don’t just mean a higher utility bill; it’s higher prices on food, clothing, and every other good from a store that uses electricity.
In a preliminary analysis of the Clean Power Plan, NERA Economic Consulting calculated that the new regulations could increase retail electricity prices between 12 percent and 17 percent — which translates to as much $240 more per year for electricity for consumers.
Policymakers and citizens in coal-powered states are rightfully indignant at the costs of the Clean Power Plan, and it didn’t take long for them to stand up to the EPA. Only hours after the president introduced the final version of the rule, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced that the state planned to sue the EPA. Attorneys General of 15 other states, including Ohio, have joined or plan to back West Virginia in the lawsuit and political leaders in more than 30 states have expressed opposition to the Clean Power Plan.
Many expect the Clean Power Plan to be overturned.
Submitting plans to the EPA while waiting for the litigation to play out would undermine the legal challenges against the Clean Power Plan. Notoriously litigious environmental activists are also likely to try to compel states that submit plans, through legal action, to comply with their plans even while the plan is still being debated in the courts.
Some, like Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, are pushing for federal legislation that would allow states to opt out of the Clean Power Plan regulations if they can prove it will “disproportionately harm low/fixed-income vulnerable households, cost jobs, harm the economy, or risk electric reliability.” House Republicans also back a rider on the EPA’s annual spending bill that would cut off federal funding to implement the rule.
Obama, however, has vowed to veto any legislation that would undermine the Clean Power Plan, so it’s likely going to be up to the courts to shut down the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power Plan will raise the price of electricity, making life that much more difficult for the poorest residents of Ohio and other coal-powered states for years to come. Ohio should not comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
Erik Telford is president of the conservative-leaning Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, based in Virginia.
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- On September 21, 2015