The Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit brought by 12 states to block the EPA's regulation of carbon dioxide. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
The Supreme Court has accepted a lawsuit brought by Michigan and 11 other states to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s unilateral regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. The case is the latest backlash against an agency that has declared war on America’s most abundant source of cheap energy: coal. The Obama administration’s promise of an “all of the above” energy strategy apparently doesn’t include 40 percent of the nation’s (and 65 percent of Michigan’s) electricity generation.
The suit comes as the EPA has introduced yet more rules that essentially end the construction of new coal plants by capping their greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the EPA’s suggested solution, so-called carbon capture facilities (which store coal emissions), have proved not-ready-for-primetime.
We support clean skies, but environmental regulation must be balanced with its impact on America’s 12 million manufacturing jobs. Bipartisan voices in Michigan, from Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette to Rep. John Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, agree the EPA’s surgery will be far worse than the disease.
Thanks to the advances of hydraulic fracking, the U.S. is experiencing a surge in cheap natural gas. With coal under attack, the fracking revolution has enhanced America’s manufacturing competitiveness relative to Europe’s overregulated energy sector. Yet the EPA’s legal overreach would repeat European mistakes that have hiked electricity costs 50 percent above U.S. rates.
Though the Clean Air Act never defined carbon dioxide (the product of human respiration) as a pollutant, the Supreme Court granted EPA the authority to regulate it from mobile sources such as automobiles in 2004.
It didn’t take long for the EPA to unilaterally extend CO2 regulation to non-mobile sources like power plants. The agency extended the act’s language allowing policing of power plants emitting 100 tons annually of a pollutant to all structures that emit carbon. Applying that 100-ton threshold to CO2, by the EPA’s own estimates, would require the environmental permitting of six million buildings, including farms and churches. Recognizing the economy-crippling, regulatory tsunami this would create, politically-savvy EPA administrators once again took the law into their own hands and rewrote Congress’s threshold to 75,000 tons from 100 tons to limit the damage.
“It has been said over and over again, by nearly everybody ... that the Clean Air Act as currently constituted and implemented is not the most effective way to regulate greenhouse gases,” said Dingell, the act’s author, in a letter to President Obama last August. The White House turned a deaf ear.
Indeed, the Obama administration has continued with punitive CO2 regulations on new coal plants, potentially undermining Michigan manufacturing which is heavily dependent on cheap, domestic coal. Those rules will also likely wind up in court, says Laura Sheehan of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
The EPA pooh-poohs energy industry concerns, claiming salvation via carbon-capture. But like hydrogen-powered cars, greens have been claiming for decades that carbon-sequestration breakthroughs are just around the corner.
Take Mississippi Power Co.’s showcase carbon capture facility. Please.
Despite the promise of $700 million in taxpayer subsidies, it holds the dubious distinction as one of the costliest carbon-fuel projects ever at $4.7 billion — nearly double original estimates.
The result has been double-digit rate increases for one of America’s poorest regions — even though the plant hasn’t opened. As a result of the debacle the power industry is refusing further efforts.
The EPA’s crusade comes despite a United Nation’s climate report that the Earth hasn’t warmed in 17 years, and scientific analysis that government legislation would have minimal impact on global temperatures. Tradeoffs between jobs and the environment are decisions best left to America’s elected leaders.