Editorial: Good riddance to Clean Power Plan

President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has pulled the plug on the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which called for power plants in every state to reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 — a not so thinly veiled plan to destroy the coal industry.

It was a senseless and futile gesture that would have cost Americans dearly while doing nearly nothing to protect the planet from global warming.

The U.S. Supreme Court had already blocked enforcement of the plan after 29 states filed suit saying the plan violated the law and the concept of federalism. Nevada filed an amicus brief with the court agreeing with those claims.

According to a Heritage Foundation report, Obama’s plan by 2030 would have cost an annual average employment shortfall of nearly 300,000 jobs with a peak employment shortfall of more than 1 million jobs. It also would have created a loss of more than $2.5 trillion (inflation-adjusted) in aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) and reduced total income per capita by more than $7,000 (inflation-adjusted).

According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the EPA proposal would increase the price of electricity in Nevada an average of 18 percent between 2020 and 2029.

Nevada’s friend-of-the-court brief noted, “EPA’s expensive economic experiment, imposed by fiat, will increase electricity prices for consumers and may well compromise the reliability of electric power service. The best estimates of how much prices will rise, performed by the NERA (National Economic Research Associates) economic consulting group, projects increases of as much as 14 percent per year costing Americans as much as $79 billion in present dollars.”

Although Obama’s EPA administrator Gina McCarthy insisted those costs were well worth it in order to save the planet, Obama’s own former Assistant Secretary of Energy Charles McConnell said at a congressional hearing in 2016, “The Clean Power Plan has been falsely sold as impactful environmental regulation when it is really an attempt by our primary federal environmental regulator to take over state and federal regulation of energy.”

McConnell told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he estimated the plan would only reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 0.2 percent, and the rule would only reduce projected warming by 1/100th a degree Celsius and reduce projected sea level rise by 1/100 of an inch.

“We can now assess whether further regulatory action is warranted, and, if so, what is the most appropriate path forward, consistent with the Clean Air Act and principles of cooperative federalism,” said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt in announcing the rescinding of the Clean Power Plan. The previous rule, he added, “ignored states’ concerns and eroded long-standing and important partnerships that are a necessary part of achieving positive environmental outcomes.”

The change will not affect Nevada as much as other states since the state’s lawmakers, at the behest of former Sen. Harry Reid, have already dictated that all coal-fired plants in the state be shuttered prematurely and the ratepayers pick up the tab. The move is expected to destroy 2,630 jobs by 2020 and cut real disposable income by $226 million per year, according to one study.

The EPA rule change should be a boon to the national economy for years to come, and is a welcome breath of regulatory fresh air, so the speak.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Trump pen scratches out Obama’s expensive and futile Clean Power Plan

What Obama could do with his pen, Trump can undo with his — and has.

On Tuesday Trump signed an order telling the EPA to rewrite Obama’s Clean Power Plan that would have closed down most coal-fired power plants so they could be replaced with windmills and solar panels. Obama had committed to cutting so-called greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025, while shrugging off the fact his plan would suck $1 trillion out of the economy and kill 125,000 jobs, as The Wall Street Journal reports today in an editorial.

The WSJ further points out the utter futility of Obama’s senseless and futile gesture, because a year of U.S. emission cuts in 2025 would be canceled out by three weeks of Chinese emissions. Besides, though emissions continue to increase, temperatures globally have remained much the same.

Also in today’s WSJ, Paul Tice, a business prof and energy research analyst, recommends that Trump’s EPA needs to conduct a study that would show whether or not the agency’s 2009 “endangerment finding” that tagged carbon dioxide as a pollutant is indeed valid. He suggested the decision was rushed and based on flawed data. Until that finding is confirmed or more likely refuted, he notes some future liberal president can scratch through Trump’s order.

Tice notes the “breakdown in correlation between the world’s average surface temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels” has called into “question both the predictive power and input data quality of most global climate models, and further highlights the scientific uncertainty surrounding the basic premise of anthropogenic climate change.”

Throwing money at faulty theories is hardly a wise endeavor.

The WSJ editorial concludes: “As for climate change, President Trump’s order will have the same practical effect on rising temperatures as the Clean Power Plan: none.”



Newspaper column: Trump appointees may hold key to Nevada’s economic future

Trump interviewed by Field & Stream

Trump interviewed by Field & Stream

What does a Donald Trump presidency forebode for Nevada?

It is hard to say, because Trump has never kept a firm grip on any political position for more than a few hours, seemingly changing stances depending on with whom he has spoken most recently.

On the topic of who should control the public lands in Nevada — where currently 87 percent of the state’s land mass is controlled by the various federal land agencies — President-elect Trump has straddled the fence so much he must have saddle sores.

In January during an interview with Field & Stream magazine in Las Vegas, candidate Trump was asked about the prospect of the federal government transferring some of those lands to the states if he were to be elected president.

Trump unequivocally replied, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble?

And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.”

Merely a week later in an op-ed piece printed in the Reno Gazette-Journal Trump did a 180-degree turn: “The BLM controls over 85 percent of the land in Nevada. In the rural areas, those who for decades have had access to public lands for ranching, mining, logging and energy development are forced to deal with arbitrary and capricious rules that are influenced by special interests that profit from the D.C. rule-making and who fill the campaign coffers of Washington politicians. Far removed from the beautiful wide open spaces of Nevada, bureaucrats bend to the influence that is closest to them. Honest, hardworking citizens who seek freedom and economic independence must beg for deference from a federal government that is more intent on power and control than it is in serving the citizens of the nation.”

He went on to bemoan the fact local governments have to beg the Washington bureaucracy for land for schools, roads, parks and other public uses and pay a premium price for it. During the Republican convention this past summer the party platform included a call for the federal government to divest itself of a certain portion of public lands.

“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states …” the platform reads. “The residents of state and local communities know best how to protect the land where they work and live.”

But at the same time an aide to Trump told the Huffington Post that Trump did not oppose the platform plank, but did not really embrace it, saying, Trump “lives in Manhattan and he views the West as this giant federal wonderful ownership property.” The aide said Trump would prefer a middle ground, such as a federal-state management partnership.

In August, according to High Country News, Elko County Commissioner and Nevada Land Management Task Force Chairman Demar Dahl met privately with Trump at a fundraiser at Lake Tahoe and broached the subject of public lands being transferred to the states.

“He said, ‘I’m with you,’” recalls Dahl, an avowed advocate of granting Nevada greater control over public land. He spoke recently before a House subcommittee in favor of a bill that would do so.

Given Trump’s apparent fluidity on this matter, one might be advised to look to who Trump appoints to various cabinet posts in the coming weeks for hints for how Nevada and the West may fare. One good sign for Nevadans who would like to see federal land put to productive use is that Trump reportedly is seriously considering two oil company executives to be secretaries of Interior and/or Energy.

He also has the self-styled environmentalists in a tither over the possibility that he might appoint a so-called climate denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been pressing forward with its jobs strangling Clean Power Plan to restrict air emissions and its Waters of the U.S. proposal that would usurp control of every mud puddle west of the Rockies. The views of Trump’s appointees may be more important than the rhetoric out of the future president.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


Newspaper column: Clean Power Plan challenge is based on federalism

Shortly after Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the 29 states suing in federal court to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants, the attorney for an environmental group fired off a criticism.

“Attorney General Laxalt’s opposition to the Clean Power Plan is out of step with Nevada’s commitment to advancing clean energy that protects public health, the environment and our clean energy economy. …” wrote Robert Johnston, an attorney with the Western Resource Advocates. “Our state has been proactive in developing and enacting clean energy policies for more than a decade … As a result, Nevada is in a strong position to comply with the goal of a 35% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030 contemplated in the final rule.”

He said there is “no logical reason” for Laxalt to oppose the EPA fiat.

Reid-Gardner coal-fired power plant is being shut down under a state law. (Las Vegas Sun photo)

Whether the state is capable of complying with the plan — in fact, it may already be meeting the requirements — is neither here nor there. The question is whether any federal agency has the power to order the sovereign states to do its bidding, which would be contrary to the constitutional concept of federalism under which powers not assigned to the federal government are retained by the states and the people — the 10th Amendment.

In fact, Laxalt’s brief, which was filed in conjunction with Consumers’ Research, a national consumer advocacy organization, states in its opening pages that the “elementary principles of federalism would preclude giving credence or deference to any state-authority-invading regulation …” (Nevada brief on Clean Power Plan)

The state is well within its prerogatives to reduce its carbon emissions, but the EPA has no power to require it to do so under the Clean Air Act. The EPA proposal essentially seeks to divert energy generation from plants fueled by coal and other fossil fuels to plants powered by wind or solar, which the EPA claims will benefit the environment and prevent global warming by sharply reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.

The Supreme Court, shortly before the death of strict constitutionalist and states’ rights advocate Antonin Scalia, voted 5-4 to suspend enactment of Clean Power Plan rules until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia can hear and rule on the suit filed by the states. The action was deemed unprecedented by legal observers. The lower court had declined to block the rules but has expedited the case and is expected to hear arguments in June. The Laxalt brief is being entered into the record of that case.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to delay the rules, the 29 suing states also cited federalism.

Adam Laxalt 2014 file photo from R-J

The Clean Power Plan “raises serious federalism concerns. It is a ‘well-established principle that it is incumbent upon the federal courts to be certain of Congress’ intent before finding that federal law overrides the usual constitutional balance of federal and state powers. …” the states argue. “The Power Plan cannot be squared with that principle. The States’ authority over the intrastate generation and consumption of energy is ‘one of the most important functions traditionally associated with the police powers of the States.’”

While rooted in this principle of states’ rights, the Nevada friend-of-the-court brief does not ignore the real consequences of the EPA’s meddling, noting, “EPA’s expensive economic experiment, imposed by fiat, will increase electricity prices for consumers and may well compromise the reliability of electric power service. The best estimates of how much prices will rise, performed by the NERA (National Economic Research Associates) economic consulting group, projects increases of as much as 14 percent per year costing Americans as much as $79 billion in present dollars. These excessive costs underscore the fundamentally legislative character of EPA’s final rule.”

Back when he was first running for office, Obama told a San Francisco newspaper editorial board, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Coal-powered plants, you know, natural gas, you name it, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”

Of course, there is also the unambiguous wording of the Clean Air Act itself, which says the states, not the EPA, are to “establish” and “apply” performance standards, while the EPA merely outlines “procedures.”

It is not just about power plants, but about fundamental powers and principles.

(AG press release)

 A version of this column appears this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


EPA Clean Power Plan will drain the economy of U.S. and Nevada

The EPA is inviting states to their own hanging and telling them to bring a rope.

By next summer the states are being told by the EPA to submit plans for compliance with its Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon output from power plants or it will impose its own stringent orders.

According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the EPA proposal will increase the price of electricity in Nevada an average of 18 percent between 2020 and 2029. That’s money that can’t be spent elsewhere on goods and services and to create jobs.

It is unclear whether these calculations take into account the 2013 Legislature’s decision to prematurely shut down all coal-fired power plants in Nevada, a move that already will destroy 2,630 jobs by 2020 and cut real disposable income by $226 million per year, according to one study.

Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant. (Sun photo)

ACCCE says the EPA proposal would drive up the cost of electricity by about $335 billion. It also will increase the price of natural gas for non-generating purposes by $144 billion. The net cost to the economy would be $479 billion between 2017 and 2031.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Kenneth Hill, a director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, has called on states to ignore the EPA directive to create compliance plans and let it try to impose sanctions. He notes the agency is legally shaky ground. Remember, the court said the feds could not coerce states into expanding Medicaid by denying funds.

“But the problem for the EPA is that the federal government lacks the legal authority under either the Constitution or the Clean Air Act to enforce most of the regulation’s “building blocks” without states’ acquiescence,” Hill writes. “This severely limits the EPA’s ability to tailor a federal plan to a state’s unique needs.”

After all the spending and draining of the economy, what will be the benefit of these new restraints on carbon output? Nil.

There has been no global warming for 17 years, according to NASA data, and the world has warmed only 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit since they started keeping track in 1979. The bulk of that warming came between 1979 and 1998, and since then temperatures have actually dropped.