President Obama’s ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by power plants faces a lot of hurdles, reports Michael Collins, and Tennesseans are among those trying to erect some of those hurdles.
States will be required to submit their own plans showing how they will meet emission targets set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But lawmakers in several states, including Tennessee, are resisting and threatening legal action. The coal industry and other businesses have indicated they also may sue.
Republicans in Congress and some Democrats from coal-producing states also are promising a fight. A bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and co-sponsored by Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — would bar the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions on new and existing power plants unless multiple agencies certify such regulations won’t hurt jobs, the economy and electricity reliability.
…Under the 645-page proposal, which will be finalized next year, Tennessee will have to cut its power plant carbon emissions by 39 percent from 2005 levels. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity to most of the state, has said it already meets and is on track to exceed the targets.
Nevertheless, State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Thompson Station, said he has asked Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. to explore whether the state can sue the EPA on the grounds that the new carbon rules put Tennessee at a disadvantage to Democrat-leaning states that already have state-level caps or different means of creating power. Casada, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, said his aides also are working on legislation regardless of the attorney general’s actions.
“Under the president’s plan, some states will not have to the meet the (same) standards as other states, based upon their actions of the past,” Casada said. “That shows favoritism, and it’s unconstitutional.”
Legal scholars say the EPA is on solid grounds when it comes to regulating carbon emissions, but that it’s still hard to predict how the courts might rule on a lawsuit challenging the new standards.
… If the new rules survive an attack in the courts and in Congress, supporters are fairly confident the next administration would allow them to go forward.
“There is always a chance that some ideologue would be elected who would try to unwind this,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
But, “I don’t sense that a new administration is going to completely abandon what is being done. By the time a new president takes office, which would be January 2017, most of the states are going to have already gone well into planning for their state implementation plans. Those who haven’t are going to be in trouble because the likelihood of this staying on track is pretty high.”