Posted by Curt on 10 March, 2015 at 10:17 am. 1 comment.


David Hauptmann via email:

In a Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged states to reject the Obama administration’s sweeping and unprecedented EPA regulations that will harm workers and middle-class families in Kentucky and across the country.  The left responded with outrage trying to defend the EPA’s unprecedented power grab.

Leader McConnell wrote, “The regulation is unfair. It’s probably illegal. And state officials can do something about it; in fact, many are already fighting back. I’m calling for others to join. Here’s why. Every state has the power, in theory at least, to design its own approach to meet the excessive and arbitrary mandates imposed by this regulation. But the purported flexibility is actually illusory.

“States report that the regulation’s mandates are not technologically achievable, cannot be implemented under rushed timelines and threaten both state economies and energy reliability for families. Moreover, the regulation actually punishes states for billions they’ve already invested in environmental upgrades.

“And yet, the Obama administration is still threatening to impose its own — presumably more draconian — plan on any state that doesn’t do as it’s told. It sounds like a scary outcome. But states shouldn’t be frightened, nor should they allow themselves to be bullied. . . .

“So what are governors and state officials who value the well-being of the middle class to do? Here’s my advice: Don’t be complicit in the administration’s attack on the middle class. Think twice before submitting a state plan — which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits — when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won’t be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism.

“Refusing to go along at this time with such an extreme proposed regulation would give the courts time to figure out if it is even legal, and it would give Congress more time to fight back. We’re devising strategies now to do just that.”

Leader McConnell’s advice and that of other conservatives is frustrating EPA bureaucrats, who aren’t sure how to respond to states standing up and asserting their rights in the federal system.

According to Politico Pro, “Supporters of President Barack Obama’s climate regulations are getting worried EPA may have few tools to use if states decide to follow conservatives’ advice and refuse to cooperate with the agency on climate change regulations. Questions abound about how the agency would impose its own climate plans on behalf of states or make sure the states that do submit plans actually stick to them. Also up in the air: whether the agency has the right to hit the violators with penalties that could even include the loss of federal highway dollars — one of the main fiscal weapons Washington has used to get states to toe the line on everything from motorcycle helmet laws to underage drinking. . . .

“[C]onservatives like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell call their ‘just say no’ strategy the surest way for states to create momentum to block or undo Obama’s climate initiative — a strategy that mirrors the GOP’s state-by-state efforts to undermine Obamacare’s health care exchanges.”

Some proponents of the Obama administration’s regulations “argu[e] that EPA has a mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act to hold back millions of dollars in highway funds and to impose strict limits on industrial construction permits in states that refuse to comply. A July white paper by lawyers from the D.C. firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer also argues that states could lose highway money or face onerous construction restrictions if they don’t comply.

“Don’t fall for those scare tactics, say EPA’s adversaries, who argue it’s far riskier for states to play along with the agency. Instead, they say, refusing to submit plans would save states time and money, increase opponents’ leverage in Congress and leave time for court challenges that could eliminate the climate regulations altogether. ‘Think twice before submitting a state plan — which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits,’ McConnell said in an op-ed last week that stoked the debate. ‘Refusing to go along at this time with such an extreme proposed regulation would give the courts time to figure out if it is even legal, and it would give Congress more time to fight back.’”

Liberals are furious. Politico Pro notes, “The New York Times editorial board denounced McConnell’s efforts as ‘reckless’ Monday.” Daily Kosaccused him of “urg[ing] state gov’ts to commit civil disobedience,” while Mother Jones fumed that he “threw his weight behind this obstructionist strategy” and Think Progress complained that he “told individual states to openly defy the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules.”

Politico Pro adds, “Hal Quinn, CEO of the National Mining Association, argued that the Clean Air Act allows states to decide whether to submit a compliance plan. ‘Suggestions that Leader McConnell’s op-ed is asking states to do something illegal is wrong,’ he said. And besides, Quinn said, submitting a state compliance plan is ‘building a Trojan Horse for EPA to come in … if you stumble or fall in meeting those targets.’

“McConnell’s argument has its roots in an argument made in a Federalist Society paper published in November, which asked: ‘What if states just said no?’ ‘The notion that EPA could impose sanctions if States fail to submit the plan EPA demands can be dismissed quickly: EPA does not have that authority,’ said the paper, written by three attorneys from the firm Troutman Sanders.”

With all the legal arguments, though, the practical effects and painful consequences of these regulations can get overshadowed. In his op-ed, Leader McConnell laid them bare: “Just consider how extreme this regulation is. According to a respected group of economists, the regulation could cost our country about a third of a trillion dollars in compliance costs and cause electricity price hikes in nearly every state.

“And who gets hit hardest when energy bills go up? Lower-income families. Seniors on Social Security and a fixed budget. Those who struggle just to get by. These are the people the administration has chosen to attack.

“In Kentucky, the regulation would likely shrink our economy by almost $2 billion and throw countless out of work. The commonwealth’s coal industry alone has already shed thousands of coal jobs during this administration’s tenure. And now, many more of the thousands of Kentuckians whose jobs are tied to coal — including many proud miners who just want to give their children a better life — are likely to lose their jobs, too.

“In short, this regulation threatens to hurt a lot of people without doing much for the global environment.”

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