This month the U.S. Supreme Court did all Texans a favor: putting a temporary hold on the Environmental Protection Agency’s sweeping new carbon regulation. With a final ruling not expected till at least 2017, any continued work by Texas agencies on implementation of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars — and it’s why they should halt work on it immediately.
First, some background. The EPA’s carbon emissions rule would fundamentally restructure the nation’s power grid — and force every American to pay for it. It requires states to cut emissions from power plants by varying amounts. Texas is required to cuts emissions by 33 percent by 2030.
About the only way to accomplish such dramatic cuts would be to shut down affordable energy sources that Texans have already bought and paid for. Their replacements would largely come from wind and solar, which can be up to three times more expensive than traditional sources.
Those higher costs will be passed on to Texas families in the form of higher energy bills. Economists at NERA Economic Consulting estimate it will increase annual electricity rates by up to 21 percent between 2022 and at least 2033. That will amount to hundreds of dollars per year for families already living paycheck to paycheck — expenses they cannot afford.
Higher energy prices will hit employers, too, driving up the cost of doing business. That’s especially true for manufacturers, which require abundant energy usage. Combined with other new carbon regulations, the Heritage Foundation estimates this will cost up to 43,000 manufacturing jobs in Texas alone.
These crushing costs are part of the reason why 29 states — including Texas — filed a federal lawsuit against these regulations. The other is that it is an unprecedented federal overreach into states’ rights. This bipartisan coalition is backed by liberal Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe — President Obama’s law school professor — who argues that it amounts to “burning the Constitution.”
This is where the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in. In temporarily halting the regulation until this suit is resolved, the court ruled that moving forward with its implementation could irreparably harm the states, and that they have a likelihood of succeeding in federal court. This is an extremely rare move that speaks volumes about the regulation’s shaky legal ground.
So what does that mean for Texas? Testifying before Congress after the stay was issued, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made it clear: “Nothing is going to be implemented while the stay is in place. It is clearly on hold until it resolves itself through the courts.”
In other words, there will likely be no further action on this regulation till at least 2017, which is the earliest the Supreme Court could make its final ruling. Even with Justice Scalia’s recent passing — which many EPA supporters say improves their chances before the Court — the future of the regulation remains in jeopardy.
Therefore, during that time, it makes no sense for Texas authorities — including air and environmental quality boards, public utility commissions and individual utilities — to proceed with implementation plans. Doing so risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars if the regulation is ultimately ruled illegal, which as the stay suggests is likely.
President Obama has spent his eight years in office passing regulations that push constitutional boundaries. Now the Supreme Court has put a check on his authority, with a more decisive ruling to come next year. Texas state officials should heed the high court’s warning and move to minimize any loss to taxpayers between now and then.
Thomas J. Pyle is the president of the American Energy Alliance.