By Chase Downham
Americans for Prosperity
The Obama administration recently proposed environmental regulations that would force Indiana power plants to severely cut our greenhouse gas emissions — and to its credit, our state government is suing to stop it. This was a prudent move: The administration’s actions are both legally questionable and economically dangerous.
But the White House is ignoring our lawsuit. It recently directed the Environmental Protection Agency to release the final regulation as early as this month. In the face of such federal overreach, our state legislators — who returned to the statehouse this week — must take further steps to protect Indiana taxpayers.
Specifically, they should pass legislation that prohibits the state from spending taxpayer money implementing the EPA regulation — until the courts have had their say.
Passing such legislation would protect Hoosiers from one of the worst federal regulations in recent history. The “Clean Power Plan” would force Indiana to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. But this can’t happen without shutting down power plants and harming Indiana’s economy.
We’re already seeing this pan out. The EPA’s mandate has put seven Indiana power plants at risk of closure. As reported by WTHI in Terre Haute, this threatens the jobs of several hundred workers at one power plant alone.
The effects of power plant closures would ripple across the state. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the electricity grid’s regulatory authority, estimates the effects will be so dramatic that it will threaten the stability of our power grid — potentially leading to blackouts.
The effects will ripple across the economy, too. NERA Economic Consulting estimates that the mandate will cause Indiana’s electricity prices to increase by 12 percent a year for at least the next fifteen years. Average electric costs for businesses could spike more than 50 percent in the next five years alone.
Hoosiers will feel the effects in our daily lives. Everything from gas to groceries will become more expensive. When prices go up, middle-class budgets get tighter. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will be similarly squeezed, harming current jobs and future job growth.
Put another way, the EPA regulation means that Hoosiers will pay more at the cash register while bringing home less at the end of the week.
Manufacturers will be especially hard hit. Indiana leads the nation in manufacturing employment as a share of total state jobs. But as costs increase, jobs will begin migrating elsewhere—some to other states, others overseas.
This is particularly perverse. The EPA regulation is supposed to improve the environment, yet it will likely shift jobs to countries like India and China — countries with weaker environmental standards than America. That could actually harm the environment while leaving fewer jobs, as well.
Even in a best-case scenario, the regulation has little environmental benefits. According to the EPA’s own climate models, it will only lower global temperatures by 0.018 degrees by the year 2100 and slow sea level rises by 0.01 inch — roughly the thickness of three sheets of paper.
This helps explain why our state is suing to stop this mandate. So are eleven other states. A growing list of scholars — on both sides of the political aisle — are on the same side. Even President Obama’s old Harvard Law School professor, Laurence Tribe, believes the administration’s demands are unlawful and unconstitutional.
But it may take years before the courts rule in these cases. In the meantime, Indiana taxpayers will be forced to spend money complying with the mandate — even if it’s ultimately struck down.
Which brings us to how Indiana legislators can help. They should pass legislation that prohibits spending taxpayer money to implement the EPA regulation until the many legal challenges are resolved. This is a sensible proposal: We shouldn’t pay for something which is already being challenged in court and which may soon be declared unconstitutional.
This should be at or near the top of the legislature’s to-do list once lawmakers return to Indianapolis. President Obama’s environmental agenda may be well-intentioned, but it will only harm our state’s economy without improving the environment. Until the courts have ruled, Hoosiers shouldn’t be forced to pay.
Chase Downham is the Indiana state director of Americans for Prosperity.