Fundamental Change to Prevent an Unchecked Bureaucracy
By Patrick Morrisey, Attorney General of West Virginia
Did Congress give EPA the power to make states like West Virginia change the way we get our electricity? And even so, is EPA’s plan to do so even realistic?
Those were the questions that my office and other challengers to the so‐called “Clean Power Plan” addressed last fall in an historic court proceeding in Washington, D.C., where lawyers argued for more than six hours before ten judges.
Fast forward four months and the country has a new president whose administration holds the promise of a much more appropriate and lawful EPA.
But change, while good for a time, can be temporary. For that reason, I’ve led a coalition of states urging President Trump and the 115th Congress to enact long‐term solutions to ensure the lawlessness of this past administration never returns.
If you haven’t heard yet of EPA’s “Power Plan,” you need to look into it.
Whatever you think about climate change, the exercise of this kind of power by an unelected administrative agency should make you pause.
The Power Plan was one of former President Obama’s many efforts to circumvent Congress. This attempt involved the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil‐fuel‐fired power plants. Except it wasn’t about making those power plants burn cleaner; it was about closing them down.
The whole point of EPA’s aptly‐named “Power Plan” was to restructure our energy economy. It mandated unachievable emission rules precisely to force the shut‐down of existing fossil‐fuel‐fired power plants and push us toward the EPA’s preferred forms of low‐ or zero‐carbon energy generation, like wind and solar.
Whatever you think about climate change, the exercise of this kind of power by an unelected administrative agency should make you pause. Should an agency charged with reducing pollution be permitted to require sweeping and fundamental changes to our nation’s energy policy?
Not even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has that authority.
Moreover, the Power Plan itself was based on flawed reasoning. One key part of the rule is EPA’s projection of the amount of new wind generation that can realistically be expected to be built. EPA based those projections, however, on numbers artificially inflated by those seeking to take advantage of a tax credit that expired at the end of 2012.
The amount of new wind generation in 2012 was 13,131 megawatts; the next year, it had dropped to 1,100 megawatts. This isn’t just tilting at windmills; it’s a fundamental and obvious error that reflects a deeper problem with having an environmental agency making energy policy.
The argument from EPA and many of its supporters is basically that the ends justify the means. But that is not only unconstitutional, it is unworkable as a system of government. It may be convenient today for those who like the former President’s policies. But what about a year or ten years from now, when another person or another party is in power?
In February 2016, this troubled the Supreme Court enough to cause the high court to take the unprecedented step of putting the Power Plan on hold while the lower court reviews it.
That stay has made it possible for the new president to take steps to undo the lawlessness of the previous administration and to take longer‐term steps.
West Virginia, along with 23 other states and state agencies, has urged President Trump to rescind his predecessor’s Climate Action Plan and take administrative action to ensure the Rule is formally withdrawn.
We have also asked Congress to enact legislation to prevent any future EPA from drafting similarly unlawful and more extreme rules.
Such legislation could require congressional approval for rules exceeding an annual economic impact of $100 million and also mandate that agencies conduct cost‐benefit and job‐impact analyses to ensure an understanding of the direct impact a proposed rule may have on a state’s economy and workforce.
Profound, fundamental change is needed to permanently rein in the unelected bureaucrats who have taken control in Washington, D.C.
We in West Virginia will be waiting – not just to see whether we will be spared the devastating economic impact of this rule, but also to see what kind of a country we really live in.
Are we still a nation with three co‐equal branches, or one where a President’s claimed urgency trumps all?