States Resist Federal Clean Power Plan

Published July 23, 2015

A number of states are planning to defy an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal limiting carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

            The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), the largest of four regional legislative groups, adopted a resolution on July 21, written by West Virginia State Del. Rupert Phillips (D), urging state attorneys general to sue EPA over the CPP.

The resolution states, “The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments finds that EPA’s Clean Power Plan interferes with the sovereign powers of the states to regulate electricity within their borders and to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of electricity for their citizens.”

In a statement, Phillips says, “It’s time to draw a line in the sand. The EPA is pushing us around like they are a bunch of punks. I just want the states to stand together and say ‘no.'”

‘Will Not Comply’ with CPP

The resolution follows a June letter from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to President Barack Obama in which Pence noted Indiana’s coal industry employs 26,000 people and the state’s economy relies on affordable, reliable energy.

            “If your administration proceeds to finalize the Clean Power Plan, and the final rule has not demonstrably and significantly improved from the proposed rule, Indiana will not comply,” wrote Pence. “Our state will also reserve the right to use any legal means available to block the rule from being implemented.

            “Energy policy should promote the safe, environmentally responsible stewardship of our natural resources with the goal of reliable, affordable energy,” Pence wrote. “Your approach to energy policy places environmental concerns above all others.” 

Refusing to Develop SIPs

Under the pending EPA Clean Power Plan (CPP), each state is charged with developing its own plan to reduce carbon emissions, known as the state implementation plan (SIP). 

            Pence isn’t the only governor bucking the CPP. In April, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) issued an executive order prohibiting her state from developing a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

            One month later, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) sent a letter to the White House saying the CPP was “unworkable” and therefore Wisconsin would not comply with the regulations without “significant and meaningful changes.” 

Strategy of Resistance

By refusing to submit SIPs, states are embarking on a path of resistance recommended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in an April letter to the National Governors Association.

            “EPA’s Clean Power Plan is just the latest in a long litany of federal environmental regulations that will impose significant costs on consumers, threaten the reliability of the grid, and further encroach on state sovereignty, all while providing little in the way of appreciable environmental benefits,” said John Eick, energy, environment, and agriculture task force director for the American Legislative Exchange Council.

            “State policymakers across the country are justifiably concerned about the Clean Power Plan and should continue exploring avenues in which their respective states can express their opposition to this forthcoming regulation,” Eick said. 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Internet Info

Gov. Mike Pence, “Letter to the President Concerning the EPA’s Clean Power Plan,” June 24, 2015: