North Carolina state legislators face a choice when they return to Raleigh on Jan. 14: Blindly accept the Obama administration’s impending energy regulations or pass legislation protecting North Carolina taxpayers until the White House can prove in federal court that its actions are legal.
Here’s the backstory. The Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House’s direction, will soon announce the final version of its “Clean Power Plan.” The initial version of this regulation would have forced North Carolina to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next 15 years.
Such a sweeping mandate is, in essence, is a federal takeover of our state’s electricity system. Our state can only achieve this goal by dramatically cutting our use of coal, a hard task considering nearly half of our electricity comes from that resource.
A recent study by NERA Economic Consulting estimates that North Carolina electricity prices will increase nearly 10 percent every year thanks to the regulation. Elsewhere, the electricity industry’s regulatory body, known as NERC, estimates that this rule will jeopardize the electricity grid’s reliability, potentially leading to blackouts.
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This will have profound consequences for business and consumers alike. Consumers will see the effects in their daily lives. Everything from groceries to clothing to medical devices requires electricity to turn it from raw materials into usable goods. Under the EPA’s plan, prices would increase for everything we buy – absolutely the last thing stagnant middle-class incomes can afford.
Manufacturers – which use substantial amounts of energy – would also be hard hit. As their costs soar, it will become increasingly difficult to compete with overseas competitors. Our state’s decimated furniture and textile industries painfully illustrate how this can harm our economy and ruin our lives.
Coincidentally, China and India are the most likely destinations for those lost jobs – two countries with significantly weaker environmental standards than the United States. By outsourcing our jobs overseas – along with the energy they consume – this new regulation could actually harm the global environment. Even the EPA’s own climate model predicts it will only lessen global temperatures by 0.032 degrees by the year 2100.
All told, this regulation may be one of the most economically destructive and environmentally senseless in American history.
But here’s the thing: The EPA may not have the legal authority to enforce this regulation in the first place.
Legal scholars on both sides of the political aisle have doubted whether this unprecedented power grab will withstand legal challenges. Even Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe – a renowned liberal professor under whom President Obama studied – argues the EPA regulation violates both the U.S. Constitution and statutory law. On similar grounds, 12 states are suing the agency to halt implementation of the plan.
Upon returning to the statehouse, N.C. lawmakers should immediately pass legislation that would protect taxpayer resources from being wastefully deployed. Such legislation would be quite simple: Prohibit spending state funds to implement the EPA regulation until the many legal challenges are resolved. North Carolina shouldn’t spend time and treasure complying with a regulation that may never see the light of day.
They must signal they are serious about standing up to Washington overreach – particularly when it’s all economic pain and no environmental gain – and serving as responsible stewards of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
Donald Bryson is the North Carolina state director of Americans for Prosperity.