Obama's Clean Power Plan: Myths Busted

Late last summer, in conjunction with the release of his Clean Power Plan, President Obama proclaimed in a speech to an audience in Arkansas:

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. By taking action now to combat climate change, including developing homegrown clean energy and cutting energy waste, we can help protect our kids’ health, cut carbon pollution, and begin to slow the effects of climate change so we leave a cleaner, safer environment for future generations.

We are already feeling the dangerous and costly effects of a changing climate across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. And extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the west to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves – are affecting communities across the country. Now is the time to act. We have already made progress by moving to cleaner sources of energy and improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks, and buildings.

Released on Monday, August 3, 2015, the Plan addresses cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 2030.  The Federal Government will establish standards for each state; and then each state will develop its own plan for implementation.  Initial versions of the Plan are due in September 2016, with final versions due in 2018.  For more detail on the Plan and subsequent activity, click here.

Wow, this sounds like Federalism, and you would think Republicans should love it.  But wait – this is Obama’s Plan!  Think back to the reaction to the ACA, which was modeled closely on Mitt Romney’s health care plan for Massachusetts.  As might have been expected, opposition to anything and everything in Obama’s Clean Power Plan appeared in the mere blink of an eye. They were ready with their opposition so quickly because in the early months of 2014 a group started meeting regularly to devise a strategy for dismantling the regulations they suspected the President would propose.

The opposition created a series of myths about the Plan; the League of Conservation Voters busts them:

Myth 1: The Clean Power Plan will cost billions, crippling the U.S. economy.
Fact: The Clean Power Plan’s estimated net economic benefit reaches into the billions.
Myth 2: Electricity bills will skyrocket, hitting low income communities the hardest.
Fact: The Clean Power Plan will use energy smarter and save families money on their electric bills:  average annual household saving, $85, cumulative annual saving, $155 B from 2020 – 2030.
Myth 3: The Clean Power Plan will eliminate millions of U.S. jobs.
Fact: The Clean Power Plan will create tens of thousands of jobs in both the electricity and energy efficiency sectors.  Estimate: 120,000 jobs by 2020.
Myth 4: The Clean Power Plan threatens electricity reliability
Fact: The Clean Power Plan provides states and utilities with the flexibility they need to ensure energy is delivered reliably.
Myth 5: The Clean Power Plan takes control away from the states.
Fact: The Clean Power Plan empowers states, enabling each individual state to develop an implementation plan tailored to its needs.

According to reporting by the New York Times,

By the time Mr. Obama announced the regulations at the White House on Monday, the small group that had begun its work at the Chamber of Commerce (in 2014) had expanded into a vast network of lawyers and lobbyists ranging from state capitols to Capitol Hill, aided by Republican governors and congressional leaders. And their plan was to challenge Mr. Obama at every opportunity and take the fight against what, if enacted, would be one of his signature accomplishments to the Supreme Court.

Within minutes of the announcement, West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, stepped before a bank of cameras for a news conference at the Greenbrier resort in his home state. Flanked by Mike Duncan, the president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, one of the nation’s top coal lobbying groups, and Greg Zoeller, the attorney general of Indiana, Mr. Morrisey announced that a group of at least 15 Republican state attorneys general were preparing to jointly file a legal challenge to Mr. Obama’s proposal.

Eventually, attorneys general in two dozen states filed a legal challenge to the Plan, including WI’s AG, Brad Schimmel. Included in their filing was a motion to block/delay the Plan’s deadlines.  On Thursday, January 21st, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the states "have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review."   But the court did set an ambitious timetable for hearing the case, with oral arguments slated for June 2.  At that point it seemed likely that this case would eventually wind up in the Supreme Court, but certainly not in time for the September deadline for submission of initial state plans for implementation. Unfortunately, on February 9 the US Supreme Court granted a stay of the Appeals Court ruling, effectively putting the brakes on the Clean Power Plan. With Antonin Scalia's death, every decision going forward is less predictable than it was. We can hope, then, that either the current court with its eight members might reach a different opinion or that a court with a new ninth member would.

For the vast majority of conservatives currently active in the public domain, people are simply a means to an end; i.e. the accumulation of vast wealth.  People are not the end as espoused in the basic values of a democracy; i.e., government of, for and by the people. 

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