President Obama said the United States must act on principle when it comes to climate change, invoking a righteous tone in support of his Clean Power Plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions and reshape the country’s energy economy through executive action.
Opponents to this unilateral move should respond with their own moral arguments, but add to their cases legal, logical and legislative reasoning to defeat the EPA’s punitive plan.
Portions of West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky are the heart of the Appalachian coal fields. Those coal communities have struggled against increased competition from natural gas, diminished coal seams and decreased demand.
The CPP is a massive regulatory burden that places the bulk of the EPA’s “save-the-planet” dictum on one part of the country. It is fundamentally immoral to impose an executive action that will have such a devastating impact on a region and its people who for generations have mined the coal that has powered economic prosperity for the rest of the country.
The legal argument will be spearheaded by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and attorneys general from other states who believe the CPP is an abuse of federal power, or “regulation without representation,” as the Wall Street Journal opined Tuesday.
As the Journal points out, the U.S. Supreme Court “has rebuked the agency (EPA) twice in the last two years for exceeding its statutory authority.” There’s a compelling case to be made to the justices that a tiny portion of the Clean Air Act passed over 40 years ago, well before anybody ever thought about global warming, cannot be used by the executive to seize control of the nation’s energy economy.
Opponents must make a logical argument against the CPP on the cost-benefit ratio. The administration’s talking points say phasing out carbon dioxide-generating energy sources will lower energy bills and create jobs. Those should be easy enough to dispel. Let’s start with when you make a primary energy source (coal) more scarce, the cost of the remaining sources will be higher.
The President’s climate change initiative is his own; Congress never approved it. However, Congress can stop it, or at least craft a more reasoned public policy approach. Today the U.S. Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee will consider West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s legislation (The ARENA Act), which puts the brakes on CPP.
Meanwhile, West Virginia should engage in some old fashioned civil disobedience by joining with other states disenfranchised by the carbon rules and refuse to submit a compliance plan to the EPA. Federal mandates are only as effective as the willingness of states to follow them. If enough states say “no,” the EPA’s so-far unchecked authority on this issue will be stymied.
The President has laid down a powerful regulatory marker, accompanied by an emotional appeal for planetary survival. However, it’s reasonable and appropriate for West Virginians and the rest of the country to question and challenge the administration.
We have some good arguments we can make.