The Clean Power Plan and the High Cost of Symbolism

Our state leaders must push back against this administration’s complete disregard for state’s rights

By Brad Johnson

Montanans better prepare for a tighter monthly budget, because if President Barack Obama has his way, the electricity running through your home is about to get much more expensive.

On Aug. 3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a 1,560-page regulation called the “Clean Power Plan;” a convoluted “administrative rule” aimed at reducing carbon emissions generated by power plants. Though the rule was crafted without any input from the U.S. House or Senate, the Obama administration lauds it as one of the single most important policy accomplishments in history – a symbol of progress for the entire world to see and follow. But, it is foolish to think that such symbolism doesn’t come at a cost, and arrogant to suggest other countries will follow our “noble purpose.” This is the same misguided philosophy that led to calls for America to unilaterally disarm during the Cold War and in this case, would lead to the degradation of our economic security.

Consider what the Clean Power Plan is expected to cost ratepayers across the country once fully implemented. The EPA itself admits that the plan comes with an $8 billion dollar price tag every year by 2030 just in compliance costs. That is more than any other rule ever promulgated under the Clean Air Act. Independent analyses of the rule expect the cost to be much higher than the EPA estimate, and that doesn’t even include the thousands of lost high-paying jobs and millions lost in states’ tax revenue.

Now consider what the Clean Power Plan aims to do right here in our state.

Montana has one of the most strict compliance requirements in the country under the final version of the rule, with the EPA mandating that we reduce our carbon emissions rate from power production 47 percent by 2030. The cost of equipment to achieve such a steep reduction will significantly raise your monthly electrical bill. Most estimates suggest that we can expect to see a double-digit percentage increase in our electricity rates, amounting to hundreds of dollars each year added to the average utility bill. That means that thousands of Montana households who already struggle to keep the lights on must make a choice between buying food, and heating their home.

Such a costly regulation demands an objective, dispassionate and scientific cost/benefit analysis. In the case of the Clean Power Plan, the stated objective of Obama administration is to reduce global carbon emissions created by humans. Here is where the EPA’s logic falls far short of reality.

Nearly every analysis done of the Clean Power Plan since it was first proposed over a year ago, including the EPA’s own analysis, conclude that even full implementation will do very little to lower total global carbon emissions (a reduction of less than 2 percent), reducing global temperature by a nearly immeasurable amount. So we have to ask ourselves: Is it really worth
destroying our economy just to make a purely symbolic statement to the rest of the world?

It is quite apparent that this rule not only fails to achieve its goal of significantly reducing global carbon emissions, it also fails to demonstrate that it is meant as anything more than a slap in the face to the president’s political opposition. And Mr. Obama has again abused his executive authority by denying Congress any input on his “regulatory rule.”

Our state leaders must push back against this administration’s complete disregard for state’s rights, and the burden they seek to impose on the American people. We must fight for rational public policy, crafted in concert with the states, making our country stronger, rather than more vulnerable. It is time for the states to stand together and say “enough!” to the continued overreach of the federal government.

Brad Johnson, R-Helena, is the former Montana Secretary of State, and currently serves as chairman of the Montana Public Service Commission.

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