Wicker Opposes President Obama’s Latest EPA Overreach

New Regulations Would Increase Electricity Rates, Hurt Economic Growth

June 9, 2014

In 2010, President Obama’s cap-and-trade legislation to regulate carbon dioxide emissions failed in Congress. The President remarked that it was just “one way of skinning the cat.” Cap and trade, also known as “cap and tax,” imposes a fee on the CO2 released during energy production, ultimately raising energy costs for American households and businesses while doing nothing to make our air cleaner.

Now, the President is again trying to force a cap-and-trade scheme as part of his extreme environmental agenda – this time bypassing Congress with administrative action on carbon dioxide emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On June 2, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy outlined a new plan for reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, in which each state has to meet a specific target by 2030. Mississippi, for example, would have to lower its emissions from 2005 levels by 38 percent.

Higher Energy Costs Threaten American Livelihoods

I opposed President Obama’s first cap-and-trade effort, and I remain committed to fighting this latest attempt to issue burdensome, job-killing EPA regulations. These regulations are not about cutting smog or achieving cleaner air but about the effect that carbon dioxide supposedly has on global temperatures. The Obama Administration and environmentalists should not confuse the issue and try to saddle Americans with higher costs in the process.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which evaluates the Administration’s most aggressive CO2 reduction goals, electricity rates could increase by $289 billion and cost a typical household some $3,400 in disposable income over the next 15 years. Higher rates would be particularly devastating for America’s poorest populations, who already spend nearly a quarter of their paychecks on energy. As I noted in a recent Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing, the regulations would also negatively impact entire industries, such as Mississippi’s farmers, foresters, and fishermen.

Focus Should Be on Job Creation, Economic Investment

Rather than disrupting energy reliability and affordability, the President should be working with Congress to boost job creation and economic growth. Policies that force coal-fired power plants to close would not only limit America’s energy portfolio but also drive away investment and jobs. U.S. competitiveness would be put at risk as manufacturers are forced to sell goods at higher rates than their foreign counterparts. The same Chamber of Commerce study estimated that the Administration’s war on coal could kill an average 224,000 jobs each year until 2030.

China Will Continue to Drive Up Emissions

Projections about environmental results are similarly disappointing. Despite the damage done to the U.S. economy, EPA’s unprecedented overreach is expected to have a minimal impact on climate change as countries like China and India continue to be big polluters. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified in 2009 that “U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels.” In a recent interview with radio station WTOP, University of Maryland professor Peter Morici said China’s emissions would surpass America’s carbon dioxide savings in only 18 months.

I have joined 40 Senators, including Sen. Thad Cochran, in urging President Obama to withdraw this misguided rule. In our letter, we highlight his proposal’s widespread harm, burdening Americans with skyrocketing electricity rates and more economic uncertainty. We also challenge whether the Administration even has the legal authority to issue such stringent mandates under the Clean Air Act.

Coal, which provides 37 percent of America’s electricity, should not be prematurely eliminated as an energy provider by regulations with negligible benefits. The President’s radical environmental policies may satisfy the aims of his political donors but they do not serve the best interests of U.S. workers and job creators.