Gov. Walker to Obama: Clean Power Plan is ‘riddled with inaccuracies’

Scott WalkerGov. Scott WalkerThe AP reported Thursday that presidential hopeful Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) told President Obama in a letter that his Clean Power Plan is simply “unworkable” and “riddled with inaccuracies.” The letter, obtained by the AP and dated May 21, said Wisconsin would not comply with the president’s plan without “significant and meaningful changes.” The Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that the EPA says is responsible for climate change.

A defiant Walker wrote that the proposed rule for coal-fired power plants made “questionable assumptions,” making it untenable for his state. He also wrote that adherence to the new rules would cost Wisconsin nearly $13.4 billion, raise electricity rates by 29 percent, and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had overstated its authority by “attempting to regulate the entire electric generating system.”

Wisconsin is one of a dozen “coal-reliant states suing the EPA to block the so-called Clean Power Plan,” the AP reported. The plan requires all states to “cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 30 percent by 2030.” These states, which rely heavily on coal for its electricity, believe the new rules are onerous, unreachable, cost-prohibitive, and will essentially kill the coal industry. The states also say the plan “oversteps EPA’s authority and violates the Clean Air Act.”

In March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated this point when he wrote to all governors to challenge the proposed rules to cut CO2 emissions, which he described as “illegal” and a “job-killer.” McConnell’s letter accuses the EPA with “attempting to compel states to do more themselves than what the agency would be authorized to do on its own.”

And in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed an executive order in April preventing the state from formulating a state plan based on the upcoming federal rules. Fallin also called the upcoming rules an “overreach and directed the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality not to work on any state plans in response to the rules.”

According to the Times Record, Fallin’s executive order says that “development of such a SIP (state implementation plan) involves dozens of state and private entities and thousands of hours of study and negotiations. It is a massive undertaking and requires the commitment of untold amounts of financial and time resources.”

But the EPA still has a few tricks up its sleeve for recalcitrant governors that refuse to cooperate. If the states don’t come up with a plan for complying with the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the EPA can legally impose a federal plan on those states. If the EPA wins the legal hurdles it’s facing from industry and states alike, utility companies will have “no other options but to comply with a federal plan.” Oklahoma, like many other states, have laws that allow “regulated utilities to pass on any compliance costs to ratepayers for federal environmental regulations.”

A group of Democratic Senators also sent a disingenuous letter to all governors urging them to “comply with the EPA rule” while stating that “McConnell’s home state is already drafting a compliance plan.” Except McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is not creating a state compliance plan, but has instead “passed a bill to exempt the state from submitting a plan to meet the proposed air regulations that work against coal.” That’s according to The Olympian, which also reports the state is also suing the EPA over the rule.

And because upgrading aging coal-fired plants is too expensive, shutting them down and replacing them with natural gas-powered plants has allowed Kentucky to ‘inadvertently’ reach the low-emissions target set by the EPA’s draft rules. According to one compliance tool, “the state will be over-complying by 2.6 million tons of carbon,” even though “92 percent of its electricity comes from coal-fired power plants.”

However, if the EPA’s final rule differs drastically from the draft rule’s emission targets, or the EPA capriciously decides that closing down coal-fired power plants can’t be counted as “real carbon dioxide emission reductions,” this strategy could force utilities to become even more energy efficient with the costs being passed on to consumers. The upcoming gubernatorial election in November also complicates the matter as both the Democratic and Republican nominees have said they won’t allow Kentucky to “submit a plan to the EPA.”

Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming are challenging the EPA’s CPP in court and filed a joint motion to expedite a court review of their lawsuit. By forcing states to create implementation plans before the courts can decide on their legality, having these plans in place may “grant legitimacy to the CPP to the court.” The EPA’s final rule will be released in late summer, normally the hottest time of year for the United States.