Why Repealing the Clean Power Plan is the Right Move

Quinn Beeson Oct 16, 2017

Last Tuesday saw a win for affordable electricity in the state of Ohio and for the rights of states with the repeal the Clean Power Plan. While many will decry this decision destroying the environment, smart policy and common sense tell us otherwise. There are better ways to protect the environment and Americans’ health without circumventing the constitution.

Under the U.S. Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets air quality standards, which entails setting limits to how much pollution can be in the air anywhere in the United States. State governments are responsible for creating and implementing plans to meet those standards, losing federal funding if they do not comply. Explained in the EPA’s The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act:

“It makes sense for state and local air pollution agencies to take the lead in carrying out the Clean Air Act. They are able to develop solutions for pollution problems that require special understanding of local industries, geography, housing, and travel patterns, as well as other factors.”

With the Clean Power Plan, the Obama Administration sought to drastically expand the authority of the EPA and ignore its own advice about state participation, going so far as to dictate to states not only what emission levels should be but how they must achieve them by creating carbon dioxide standards for existing power plants.

Although states were asked to create their own plans to comply with the Clean Power Plan, the EPA’s requirements were stringent and allowed for the EPA to usurp a state’s authority to regulate their own power generation and transmission. The Clean Power Plan unconstitutionally interfered with state regulatory programs and ignored the principles of federalism on which this country was built.

The power plan was so contentious that 27 states, including Ohio, sued the Obama administration to stop the onerous regulation from moving forward. The Buckeye Institute, with several other non-profit organizations, also sued the EPA over the proposed Clean Power Plan.

But it wasn’t just states and energy producers questioning the authority of the Obama EPA. Liberal Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who has been called a mentor of President Obama, questioned the authority of the federal government to impose these requirements saying in testimony before Congress that the:

“EPA lacks the statutory and constitutional authority to adopt its plan. The obscure section of the Clean Air Act that EPA invokes to support its breathtaking exercise of power in fact authorizes only regulating individual plants and, far from giving EPA the green light it claims, actually forbids what it seeks to do.”

Tribe went on to say that the:

“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts - all at once. Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.”

With Tuesday’s decision, Ohio and Ohioans will be better off as the power plan would have hit Ohio’s most vulnerable the hardest and electricity prices would have increased between 12 and 15 percent per year, over the next decade. These higher prices would have disproportionally hurt poor and minority households in Ohio because low-income households spend a larger proportion of their income on electricity than high income households.

The decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan is the right move for Ohio and this country. It was a gross overreach of executive power and was unconstitutional. Repealing the Clean Power Plan will allow states to participate in their own lawmaking process and make decisions based on their unique energy needs and capabilities.

Quinn Beeson is the economic research analyst at The Buckeye Institute.