The Obama administration is now finalizing its Clean Power Plan regulation to force Texas to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Now back in Austin for the 2015 legislative session, state lawmakers have a choice: submit to the administration’s demands or stand up to this federal power grab by passing legislation protecting their constituents.
The regulation — proposed last summer by the Environmental Protection Agency —amounts to a bureaucratic takeover of our state’s electricity grid, directing Texas to cut its emissions by 39 percent over the next 15 years — a total volume twice as large as the next two states combined.
While everyone agrees we must be good stewards of our environment, any federal environmental directives should address three minimum requirements before requiring state compliance: economic burden on citizens; demonstrable environmental impact; and constitutional review. The EPA’s regulation fails all three of these measures, and Texas lawmakers should oppose its implementation.
Although our state power grid is already under significant stress from our growing population, the EPA concedes its new regulation will likely cause closure of at least 19 power plants in Texas — plants that provide nearly 15 percent of our state’s electricity and employ thousands of Texans.
These closures will pose grave dangers to the stability of our power grid. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas has already warned the regulation could lead to rolling blackouts around major commercial hubs, which will be especially dangerous to sick and elderly populations during the hot summer months.
The entire state also will experience higher utility costs, in spite of the fact Texans already pay one of the highest average electricity bills in the nation. According to a recent study by NERA Economic Consulting — the only study of its kind — this regulation likely will cause our electricity bills to increase by an average of 10 percent each year from 2017 through 2031. By 2020, industrial electricity rates will have risen to more than twice their 2012 levels.
These higher costs will ripple through our economy. Businesses, facing higher electricity expenses, will be forced to pass those costs on to customers through higher prices. Thus, Texas families and households face the prospect of paying twice for the cost of this new regulation — once through higher electric bills at home, again when we pay more for the products we buy.
Adding insult to injury are the regulation’s negligible environmental benefits. According to the EPA’s own climate model, the Clean Power Plan will slow global warming by just 0.032 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. In other words, the EPA is forcing Texans to sacrifice jobs and pay exponentially higher electric bills today to reduce global warming by less than one-half of one-tenth of one degree some 85 years away.
In the legislative session, Texas lawmakers should stand up for their constituents and set an example for representative bodies across the country. Specifically, our state representatives should pass a law that accomplishes two objectives.
First, the law should provide state legislators with the ability to reject any state plan that adversely impacts the affordability and reliability of energy for their constituents. Second, the law should bar the use of state funds to comply with the EPA’s regulation unless and until the agency can establish that its actions are legal and constitutional.
This second point is especially important for Texas taxpayers. Twelve states already have filed suit and legal scholars from both conservative and progressive camps have argued the regulation violates both the U.S. Constitution and existing statutory law. Included among these legal scholars professing doubt is President Obama’s mentor from Harvard Law School — constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe, who also served as a senior counselor in Obama’s Justice Department. Texas should not spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars to comply with a damaging federal mandate that may well never go into effect.
The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is economically disastrous, environmentally insignificant and constitutionally doubtful. Given what is at stake, our state legislators should take the immediate and prudent step of protecting Texas families and businesses from these federal bureaucrats.
<b>Mike Hasson is the Texas state director of Americans for Prosperity.</b>