How the Clean Power Plan Serves Special Interests, Not the American People

This week is the first anniversary of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Lauded by Gina McCarthy, the director of President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, the CPP requires all 50 states to provide a plan to reduce carbon emissions and introduce new power plant standards. If states do not comply by September (or by 2018 if they have an extension), the federal government will impose a plan upon them. For its supporters in the Democratic Party, the CPP is a no-brainer born of basic “common sense.”

On the contrary, one year into its existence, the CPP seems increasingly nonsensical.

For a start, the CPP represents a massive overreach of executive power. While litigation is ongoing, the CPP allows the EPA to unilaterally impose massive regulations without Congressional oversight. It thus represents a clear assault to system of government. President Obama has decided that Congress should be ignored and sidelined, rather than respected and engaged. But another illogical pursuit of the CPP is its economic warfare.

While the EPA claims that the CPP will reduce energy bills by 8 percent in 2030, evidence suggests otherwise. Take the U.S. government’s own statistics (report 5.3) on the average retail prices Americans paid for electricity in May 2016 — specifically the high prices that define pro-CPP states in the Northeast. The average price per kilowatt-hour was 17.74 cents in Connecticutt, 15.89 cents in Massachusetts and 13.9 cents in New York. By contrast, the price of electricity in Kentucky was 7.95 cents per kilowatt-hour and 8.73 cents in Tennessee. In California (a key pro-CPP state) Californians paid nearly double (14.93 cents) what Nevadans paid (7.96 cents) just next door! The lesson is rendered across the map: states with heavy energy regulations are forcing their citizens to pay more. It’s easy for CPP attorneys to congratulate themselves for their solar-paneled apartment blocks, but their arrogance will render shallow wit when American families are smashed by skyrocketing energy bills.

Yet if you thought CPP proponents might be hesitant in face of the growing evidence, think again. Their neglect of the evidence is not accidental. After all, to make their dreams a reality, CPP proponents manipulate the facts. For a good example, ThinkProgress just this week claimed that another green energy boondoggle, the Regional Green House Gas Initiative (RGGI), is flourishing. According to ThinkProgress, the RGGI reduces energy prices and is winning support from businesses and individuals. Dive a millimeter deeper, however, and reality emerges. As Mark Febrizio explains, the RGGI was built with a grace period for energy companies to reduce their carbon emissions. But now that the emissions cap is falling, those companies will have to transfer costs to their consumers in order to satisfy the regulatory overlords. And that concern raises another issue with the green dream: its preference of cronyism over good jobs.

What ultimately binds RGGI and CPP together is their redistributive authoritarianism. They take money away from private energy producers and use it to fund liberal pet projects. This systemic cronyism is best evidenced by billionaire hedge fund manager, Tom Steyer, and his relationship with Hillary Clinton. As I’ve explained, Steyer’s donor clout has won Clinton’s fealty to his war on conventional energy and his lie that green investments can create sustainable, non-government dependent jobs.

Yet the true tragedy of Steyer’s success is the impact that it will have on American families. While Steyer calls himself a “small shepherd boy” fighting valiantly for poor Americans, he is quite the opposite. In reality, his war on coal and fracking is preventing the creation of at least tens of thousands of well-paying, sustainable jobs. At the same time, his constant demands of government subsidies, tax incentives and start-up capital for green schemes tells us something else. Steyer knows those green schemes are uncompetitive as the primary means of powering America. They require the veil of taxpayer money to paper over their inefficiencies.

Still, Obama, Steyer and Clinton are at least right about one thing: CPP is highly consequential. Unfortunately, the president and his allies do not possess the moral foresight they claim. American environmental action can be a noble cause. But it must be fact-based, and it must avoid unnecessary harm to Americans. CPP does neither. In the years ahead, as the families of West Virginian coal miners are impoverished, and as Chinese and Indian polluters continue churning out carbon, CPP supporters will have to reassess their notion of “common sense.”

Tom Rogan is a foreign policy columnist for National Review, a domestic policy columnist for Opportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.