Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Obenshain Comments on the Federal Courts Rebuke of the EPA

The following is a release from State Senator Mark Obenshain:

"President Obama's EPA has struck out -- again.
A few weeks ago, I wrote to you about President Obama's aggressive opposition to the coal industry, opposition that has routinely gone beyond what the law allows. It's happened again-but this time he was challenged in court by fifteen states, including Virginia, and the court told Obama "no."

Last year, President Obama's EPA quietly adopted a rule requiring states to take preventative action (up to and including shutting down power plants) practically any time emissions in an upwind state measurably crossed into a downwind state -- a massive expansion of federal authority not authorized by legislation. What's worse, the administration's initial set of targets suggest that they planned to use the rule as a pretext to require emissions reductions that aren't affecting downwind states.

The Obama administration decided to require by fiat what the law did not authorize. Sound familiar?

It should. Not only was there the Obama administration's single-handed revision of education policies in contravention of federal statute or, more recently, the waiving of statutorily required work participation requirements for welfare recipients. There's also a whole slew of cases in which Obama's EPA exceeded its authority and got slapped down. In fact, this is the sixth time, but who's counting? Or, more to the point, who knows how many times they've flown under the radar and gotten away with it.

We all want clean air, and clearly the government has a legitimate role to play in the issue. This administration's policies, however, go far beyond reasonable environmental protection. They're anti-energy, and particularly anti-coal, policies, plain and simple. In this case, the Obama administration unilaterally imposed new emissions caps for 27 states, going after coal-fired power plants with a particular vengeance.

Virginia's coal producers are squarely in President Obama's sights, and these sorts of policies have a ripple effect that hurts not only the coal industry, but railroads, ports, and ultimately the consumers themselves.

Fortunately, a federal circuit court intervened, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit pointing out the obvious: "Absent a claim of constitutional authority (and there is none here), executive agencies may exercise only the authority conferred by statute, and agencies may not transgress statutory limits on that authority." The court is absolutely right, but this is so blindingly obvious that it never should have been necessary for a court to issue such a rebuke to the President.

The EPA's unlawful power grab was stopped in its tracks-this time. But what about next time, especially if it's in a court filled with Obama appointees? You want a good case for the Romney-Ryan ticket? Here's one: a President Romney won't tie our fragile economy up in knots with needless regulations to begin with, let alone in contravention of the law!

Coal-fired plants account for 49% of Virginia's energy, and by one estimate, more than 31,000 Virginians owe their jobs to coal. And coal isn't just important to Virginia: at 90% of the U.S. domestic energy reserve, coal is a national issue.

It's not, however, an issue President Obama wants to debate; perhaps it's not a policy he thinks he can defend. His preferred approach is to load down the industry with costly regulations and needless red tape, and to do it all without congressional approval. That's not going to fly with Virginians.

Virginians--the people who will ultimately have to suffer the rate increases to pay for the replacement of coal-fired plants. Virginians--some of whom will lose their jobs when ill-conceived EPA policies force layoffs in the coal industry, with the railroads, and at our ports.

Virginians have seen electric increases of 35% since 2005, on average, and some families have to choose between food and heat. President Obama's misguided EPA policies are piling on, driving up the cost of electricity, and all for a politically-motivated feel-good goal that has a negligible impact on the environment.

Coal is getting cleaner: emissions are down 60% over the past four decades even as the amount of coal used by utilities has almost tripled -- meaning that we're now about 85% better at reducing emissions. And I believe that there's more progress to be made. But simply shuttering power plants is not progress; it's environmental luddism, and it's hitting people in the pocketbook.

I'll be in Bristol tomorrow, meeting with regular Virginians, people who can't afford these failed liberal policies. And I'll have a message for them: the author of these anti-jobs power grabs needs to get a pink slip of his own come November."

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