Vitter Summary Statement for Oversight Hearing of EPA's Proposed Carbon Rule
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works “Oversight Hearing: EPA’s Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants”
July 23, 2014
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing. I look forward to hearing from Administrator McCarthy, as all we have heard since EPA proposed this existing source rule are explanations for their unprecedented "outside-the-fence" regulation that will destroy our country's electricity system.
There are so many issues with this proposal that it's impossible to say anything good about it. EPA's blueprint, which is fundamentally similar to the Natural Resources Defense Council's, drives States to implement renewable portfolio standards to replace fossil-fuel energy, whether they like it or not. But wind and solar aren't necessarily the best choice for every State's economy. Under this regulation, Louisiana is supposed to divert economically-valuable timber into fuel for electricity generation. That's quite an expensive feedstock compared to coal or natural gas. And, in defense of attacks by the New York Times and others, the Administrator readily admits her Agency must revisit nuclear energy, since right now it encourages the closure of nuclear plants. Basically, EPA is insisting that States ration electricity and limit consumer choice, especially if that choice involves using more electricity.
EPA's proposal makes a number of assumptions, misdirects, and glosses over its heavy-handed attempt to hijack the entire electricity system, all in the name of flexibility. In reality, EPA usurps the role of State governments and public utility commissions as well as FERC, DOE, and other federal agencies that do have the authority over and expertise in electricity generation issues. Unfortunately for EPA, electricity is not directly under its jurisdiction. Changing dispatch rules to require the most expensive power be delivered first, mandating efficiency, and the use of renewables are examples of intrastate generation, transmission, and distribution matters reserved to the States by the Federal Power Act. Moreover, the EPA attempts to dump the politically unpopular decision-making of having to pick winners and losers on the state regulators and legislatures. EPA's proposed rule seeks to turn States into either hostages or unwilling accomplices in an effort that could impoverish families, businesses, and communities.
In its existing source proposal, EPA goes beyond the plain reading of Clean Air Act Section 111, directing States to achieve questionable emission reduction targets from a limited menu of economically-damaging and legally questionable "options." As I have mentioned before, electricity prices in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states and California are 45% higher than in Louisiana. 56% of Louisiana families already, at that lower rate, spend an average of 21% of their after-tax income on energy, and they simply cannot afford the higher electricity bills that will inevitably result from this rule.
EPA is setting up our States to fail - our local economies to fail - to deliver on the President's promise that electricity prices will skyrocket - all for immeasurable so-called climate benefits. This rule is all pain and no gain. We need look only to our friends in Australia, who just last week repealed their carbon tax, for a tangible example.
As forty of my Republican Senate colleagues and I stated in our June 3 letter, EPA's proposed rule will increase costs to families, schools, hospitals, and businesses, and will, as always, hit the poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes the hardest. In reality, it is essentially a federal takeover of the American electricity system. I, for one, am not comfortable with this EPA takeover, and neither are the people of Louisiana.