By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee Republican senator has joined lawmakers in other states who have filed legislation that seeks to curtail federal regulation.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville discussed the resolution on Tuesday during a special joint committee meeting on the effect of Environmental Protection Agency regulations in Tennessee.
The measure urges Congress to propose the “Regulation Freedom Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. (Note: It’s SJR2; for the text, click HERE.)
Under the resolution, whenever one-quarter of the members of the U.S. House or Senate oppose a proposed federal regulation, it will require a majority vote of the House and Senate to adopt that regulation.
Norris, who is also chairman of the national Council of State Governments, said a number of other states have filed similar legislation. He didn’t know the exact number, but said about 150 state lawmakers support the proposal.
“The resolution is designed to build momentum in each of the states so that folks in Congress will … see that we’re serious, and that if they don’t act there is enough horse power to take action on our own, as states integral to the federal system,” Norris said.
Most of Tuesday’s meeting of the Joint Government Operations Committee focused on the Obama administration’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
The EPA is giving customized targets to each state, then leaving it up to those states to develop plans to meet their targets. Some states will be allowed to emit more and others less, leading to an overall, nationwide reduction of 30 percent.
To meet their targets, states could make power plants more efficient, reduce the frequency at which coal-fired power plants supply power to the grid, and invest in more renewable, low-carbon energy sources.
Presenters — including representatives with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Tennessee Mining Association — say they’re concerned the regulations will result in higher consumer costs, and in some cases, job losses.
In the case of TVA, John Myers, the agency’s director of environmental policy, said the nation’s largest public utility has already reduced emissions by 30 percent and is slated for even more reductions.
He said federal officials should give TVA credit for the reductions it’s made, as well as its use of nuclear energy. Myers noted that the agency’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant is near completion and on course to become the nation’s first new nuclear generating plant of the 21st century.
“If you construct new renewables, you get credit for it; if you construct new nuclear, you should get credit for it,” he said. “That’s basically our approach.”
The committee also discussed federal water regulations. Stefan Maupin, director of policy for the Tennessee Farm Bureau, said it’s unclear how much authority the EPA has because “there are waters that fall within waters of the U.S. and … there are waters that states have total control of.”
He said he’d like to see a better definition of what federal officials can regulate.
“The definition … covers any and all water features that can exist out there, and that’s what has us concerned, because there’s no limit to their authority from a federal government standpoint,” Maupin said.