President Obama’s legacy is littered with sweeping Executive Orders, unprecedented levels of federal government expansion and the diminishment of state primacy. However, as the President prepares to vacate the White House, many of his hallmark policies face a dubious future. One such policy is the Clean Power Plan (CPP) written and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The CPP rolled out in August of 2015 and it hit the states like a lightning rod. The plan requires states to meet specific carbon-cutting targets by 2030, based upon the levels of greenhouse gases they released from producing electricity in 2012. For Arizona, the EPA calls their goal “moderate,” however the target is to reduce 10 million short tons of emissions a staggering 25 percent.
Most of this reduction will come from coal. The draconian targets will require many states to plug smokestacks and decommission coal burning plants.
The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) has conducted its own modeling on the CPP. Their analysis predicts the CPP alone would force nearly 60 coal plants to close nationwide. Coal plants which since the 1990s have sunk $130 billion into upgrading their facilities. Following significant EPA rules in 2005, 67 percent of the coal fleet in the U.S had retrofitted some system for scrubbing, with momentous and positive results.
Thousands of jobs will disappear as a result of coal plant closures. But perhaps more saliently, energy production will be displaced and costs will increase to consumers. Arizona enjoys relatively low energy costs, a fact that makes the state attractive to big employers and affordable to residents. A new report by the Pacific Research Institute illustrates the CPP burden on consumers by state.
With almost a third of Arizona’s resident electricity being produced by coal, Maricopa County residents could see their electricity costs increase by 10.3 percent. Poor families will be hit disproportionally hard with costs that could equal 11.32 percent of their income. The Electricity Price Index has continued to rise with the coal losing more market share. With 48-50 million Americans in poverty, energy poverty will force many families to choose between climatizing their homes through brutal winters and summers or putting food on the table. This is why immediately following the roll out of the CPP, 28 states filed a suit against the EPA.
As the litigation and political fallout continues from these regulations, the question now is what will the Trump administration do with the Clean Power Plan? Given that the new proposed head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, was one of the first attorney generals to sue the EPA, the hope is that the plan will be quickly dismantled. Couple that with Trump’s appointment to the Supreme Court, it is possible that we might see the EPA’s power grab struck down. Elections do have consequences, which means the future for energy freedom and state’s rights looks just a little bit brighter.