Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt is making good on promises to roll back Obama Administration job-killing energy regulations. The recent announcement that the EPA will take steps to unwind the notorious “Clean Power Plan” is great news for consumers who would have faced drastically higher energy costs under the Clean Power regime.
The Clean Power Plan would have set unrealistic limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity generation on a state-by-state basis. Geographic luck often plays a big role in the availability of affordable alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydropower. For states heavily reliant on more carbon-intensive fuel sources like coal, this rule was especially harmful. Power plants would have had to install expensive and unproven carbon-capture technology or shutter altogether. The result would have been increased energy costs, which in turn increase the prices of goods and services, making all the essentials of daily life more expensive. Estimates pegged job losses from the Clean Power Plan at more than 125,000.
Taxpayers caught a break last year when the Supreme Court temporarily halted implementation of the plan while legal challenges worked their way through the courts.
But a mere pause left energy producers, states, and ratepayers in limbo, creating enormous economic uncertainty for many. That’s why it’s so critical that the EPA take steps to properly unwind this regulatory rat’s nest.
Unfortunately, should political tides shift, it might only be a matter of time before another similar regulation could be imposed. The constituency that wants to eliminate traditional energy sources, regardless of cost or impact, is large and powerful. To truly prevent this kind of sweeping regulatory overreach, Congress needs to address the problem of the “Chevron doctrine.”
As NTU explained in a 2016 vote alert in favor of H.R. 4768, the “Separation of Powers Restoration Act” (SOPRA):
“[The Chevron doctrine] has allowed agencies to use ambiguous laws to expand their authority as long as the interpretation is deemed reasonable by the courts. In turn, the power of federal agencies has grown unabated, without a proper check by judicial and legislative branches. This precedent has led to the enactment of sweeping regulations by federal agencies, rather than an act of Congress.”
Federal agencies have abused this power to avoid judicial review of numerous regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, and to permit broad interpretations of sometimes decades-old laws in ways never intended by Congress. This controversy touches just about every area of federal policy, ranging from telecommunications, to labor, to finance. Restoring the federal courts to their proper role as interpreters of statutes will help restrain the authoritarian impulses of our mammoth bureaucracy and avert another Clean Power Plan in the future.