The Leaflet: States Battle The Clean Power Plan

Published March 3, 2016

Last month, The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), effectively blocking implementation of the CPP as of February 9, 2016. This means the CPP is not in effect at this time and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot force states to take any action to comply until judicial review is complete. Essentially, the CPP process has been temporarily halted. Since the stay at least 18 states have suspended any actions on planning for implementation of the CPP while many others are considering doing the same.

Some states are wondering if the EPA can issue a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) immediately after the stay is lifted. It is unlikely that states will immediately be assigned a FIP after the stay is lifted since the deadlines have now been pushed back after the
Supreme Court’s ruling. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy acknowledged this is unlikely on the record and that states do not need to take any current action. McCarthy stated, “Nothing is going to be implemented while the stay is in place. It is clearly on hold until it resolves itself through the courts.”

A loss of statewide energy jobs is one of the reasons the CPP implementation is being rejected by states. In March Chris White, a contributing writer for The Daily Caller wrote “one of the country’s largest coal companies, Alliance Coal announced it would be laying off nearly 300 employees this year, due in large part to overarching regulations created by the Obama administration and the EPA.” White also mentioned that “Missouri-based Arch Coal was also hit by the downturn in the coal markets, as it was forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year.”

The American Energy Alliance recently released the ten reasons why states should stop work on EPA’s carbon rule. Reason number one explains, “EPA’s carbon rule guarantees significant pain with no observable benefit. The rule increases the cost of electricity and provides minuscule climate change benefits. EPA admits that under the regulation, electricity rates will increase. This will hurt all Americans, particularly low-income families. The agency also acknowledges that the actual climate impacts are minuscule. Implementing a rule that drives up electricity rates for virtually zero benefits does not make sense, unless states are forced to do so or are unconcerned with their citizen’s welfare.”

A coalition letter circulated by American Commitment and signed by The Heartland Institute and 34 other free-market and conservative organizations points out states will not, “regret saying no and forcing the federal government to implement its own destructive agenda.  States that chose to implement their own health care exchanges learned this the hard way, as federal bureaucrats micromanaged every aspect of the exchanges and state-level politicians ended up being held responsible for the program’s many failures.”

What We’re Working On

Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Moving Florida Away from Pensions for State Workers
Florida legislators are now considering a new pension reform proposal that would place newly hired state, county, K–12, and higher-education workers into a 401(k)-style defined-contribution retirement plan, unless they explicitly request to be enrolled in a traditional defined-benefit pension plan. New workers would be given eight months to decide which plan they prefer. The legislation would also add survivor benefits for first responders to the defined-contribution plan; these benefits are currently available only to workers enrolled in the defined-benefit plan. 

In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans argues Florida’s effort to move state workers into a defined-contribution pension plan is an important step toward solidifying the state’s financial future. “Defined-contribution plans give retirees direct control over retirement and makes it possible for them to move in and out of the private sector without losing their accrued pension benefits. This allows governments to budget more accurately, because benefits are paid directly to employees and are firmly set each year.” Read more

Constitutional Reform         
Research and Commentary: Missouri Convention of States
Missouri is currently considering a proposed multiple-amendment application for an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. If an Article V convention is called for by the states, it would be limited to considering constitutional amendments that would require the federal government to enact a balanced budget, impose term limits on members of Congress, or that would mandate the reduction of federal regulations.

In this Research & Commentary, Project Manager for constitutional reform issues Kyle Maichle examines Missouri’s efforts, concluding states have an obligation to address the threat caused by the national government’s inaction on many fronts. “Calling for an Article V convention is one way to help move the public discussion forward and to effectively put pressure on Congress to take action.” Read more

The New SAT: Common Core Sealant
National Common Core-aligned standardized tests for elementary and secondary schools are in the midst of a death spiral, despite the $360 million the Obama administration spent on them. In this Somewhat Reasonable blogpost, The Heartland Institute senior fellow for education policy Robert Holland writes, “the College Board is seeing to it that a radically revised version of the SAT will step in as the go-to test to measure high school students’ Common Core-defined ‘college and career readiness.'” If the SAT becomes established as a graduation requirement under federal mandate, Holland argues, the standardization and centralized decision-making sought by Common Core’s elitist architects will become easier to achieve than it was under consortia testing. Read more

Energy & Environment
Obama Halts New Coal Mining Leases on Federal Land
In a move seen by many critics of President Barack Obama as a continuation of his administration’s “war on coal,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ordered a three-year moratorium on new coal leases on federal land. Existing coal leases on public land would not be affected by the rule. Coal production on federal land in Western states currently brings in more than $1 billion per year in annual revenue to the federal government. Bonner R. Cohen, senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research notes in this Heartlander article that at least 30 mine applications in nine states would be blocked by the moratorium, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The largest projects blocked are in the Powder River Basin, the nation’s top coal-producing region, which is located in Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. Read more

Health Care
Research & Commentary: Certificate of Need Laws Limit Access to Rural Hospitals
One of the most common arguments used in support of CON laws is the claim they help to protect access to health care in rural communities by shielding hospitals from increased competition. In order to protect patient access to health care in rural communities, several states have moved to enact restrictive regulations on what health care expert call “hospital substitutes,” such as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).

In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines a new study released in February 2016 by Thomas Stratmann and Christopher Koopman of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University which found states restricting entry and competition through a CON program had fewer total hospitals and fewer rural hospitals per capita. Glans argues the Mercatus study would seem to suggest CON laws are not a silver bullet for protecting access to care in rural health care markets.  Read more

From Our Free-Market Friends
Consideration of a Convention to Propose Amendments Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution
John G. Malcolm, director at the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, discusses in a recent legal memorandum answers to some of the difficult questions about the state-initiated Article V process; how such a convention would work, what types of amendments it might produce, and whether some of those amendments would successfully rein in the federal government and reinvigorate federalism. If proponents of calling an Article V Convention succeed, the answers to those questions may be coming sooner than many expect. In this legal memorandum, Malcolm states, “the specific merits of the proposals and whether these efforts ultimately result in a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution is still to be seen but getting citizens and legislators engaged in a robust discussion of these important issues regarding self-governance and the proper role of the federal and state governments in the lives of the American people is a constructive and positive development.” Read more