Coal-fired power plants, like this one in Glenrock, Wyoming, will have to curtail their
greenhouse-gas emissions under new Environmental Protection Agency rules being imposed this summer.
In an op-ed published in the Lexington Herald-Leader
Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on
states to refuse to submit plans to control emissions from power plants.
The plans are a piece of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan that will impose greenhouse-gas emissions-curtailing rules for existing, modified, and new electricity-generating plants. The rules are slated to be finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency this summer. To give states flexibility in how the emissions targets in the rules are achieved, the EPA wants them to come up with their own plans. But those states that don't will have a one-size-fits-all plan imposed on them. Advises McConnell:
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.
In fact, however, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government is required to come up with means to control greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. So the "shaky" legal ground McConnell conjures doesn't really exist.
Coral Davenport writes:
“It’s unprecedented that a leader in the Senate would call on states to disobey the law, which has been upheld many times by the Supreme Court,” said Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment Committee. “I can’t recall a majority leader calling on states to disobey the law—and I’ve been here almost 24 years,” she said.
McConnell focuses his attack on the purported damage to Americans' financial well-being that the rules will cause. Republicans showing a long face over economic harm to the middle class and low-income people is always hilarious given the policies the party has supported over the past 35 years. This is especially eye-rolling when the subject is the effects of the so-called "war on coal" in Kentucky.
Coal-related jobs there were dwindling long before Barack Obama was a senator, much less president. Automation, a shift to western surface coal-mining, reduced coal resources in the state's century-plus mining industry and a shift to non-union mines have been the primary sources of the economic hurt to families dependent on coal. Of the 100 poorest counties in the United States, 29 are in the eastern Kentucky coal belt. The state provides more economic support for the coal industry than it collects in revenue from those operations. Less than one percent of the state's population is directly involved in coal mining and related operations.
Instead of battling against efforts to bring greenhouse-gas emissions under control, McConnell and other Republicans ought to be pushing policies designed to modernize the nation's energy infrastructure, moving us away from fossil fuels toward renewables and improving efficiency. Such an effort will produce hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Instead, it's more of the Party of No at work, this time with a new twist.