The Obama administration unveiled the linchpin of its global warming agenda Monday: a 1560-page regulation called the “Clean Power Plan.” The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. The EPA claims the plan will benefit the economy and the environment by reducing asthma attacks, creating jobs in the green energy sector and showing the world the U.S. is committed to fighting global warming. All of this ahead of a major United Nations climate summit this winter.
Put simply, the new agenda is a massive undertaking, and one that’s already facing legal challenges from a coalition of states and the coal industry. There are going to be clear winners and losers with this rule. Red states, fossil fuel companies and even blue dog Democrats stand to lose out — not to mention all the families who will be hit with higher energy bills.
Is EPA Punishing Red States?
The EPA’s cuts to CO2 emissions could cost states billions of dollars in the coming decades. States are forced to find ways to cut emissions based on certain building blocks set forth by EPA. But this could be costly for energy-intensive states, like North Dakota, with grids and economies that rely on lots of coal power, and oil and natural gas production.
There’s another interesting dynamic underlying the EPA’s rules. The Daily Caller News Foundation examined the data and found that red states were among those hit with the biggest, and likely costliest, emissions reduction mandates.
Of the ten states with the biggest CO2 reduction mandates, eight are dominated by Republicans and only two are Democratic. On the flip side, the states with the lowest CO2 reduction mandates are overwhelmingly liberal — six are Democrat and only four are Republican.
TheDCNF looked at which party controlled each chamber of the state legislature and the governorship to determine control. For example, Republicans control both chambers of the South Dakota legislature and there’s a Republican governor. We considered that state Republican. On the other hand, Montana has a Democratic governor but a Republican-controlled legislature. We’d also consider that state Republican since two of the three groups looked at were GOP-controlled.
Republican states were among those that saw the highest increases in their CO2 mandates from the EPA’s proposal to the final rule, according to Politico Pro. Some 16 states had their emissions targets increased by the EPA, but the agency also loosened targets for 31 states.
Politico reported that while North Dakota “enjoyed the lowest emission reduction goal in the proposed rule,” the state “saw that goal more than quadruple in the final rule to 44.9 percent.”
“Other states saw significant increases in their goals as well. Montana’s goal increased by 26.3 percentage points to 47.4 percent. Iowa’s went up 25.4 points, to a 41.5 percent reduction. And Wyoming’s goal went up 25.3 points to a 44.3 percent reduction,” according to Politico.
“On the other hand, 24 states saw their goals reduced. Washington’s declined the most, down 34.6 percentage points to 37.2 percent,” Politico reported. “Oregon dropped 28.1 points to 20 percent, and New York went down 24.7 points to 19.5 percent.”
Before drawing too many conclusions, it’s worth noting that red states are likely being hurt the most because they rely more heavily on coal for their energy needs. These states also tend to be major energy producing states, like North Dakota, Wyoming and West Virginia.
States that rely too much on coal will have the toughest time complying with the Clean Power Plan because burning coal emits much more CO2 than burning natural gas. The EPA says it bases its reduction targets on what’s “achievable.” The agency sees coal-reliant states as having much more work to do when it comes to reducing emissions than states relying more on natural gas and green energy, as many Democrat-controlled states do.
The fact is that far more states saw their emissions targets reduced from the EPA’s proposal last year. Even so, states are still going to have a tough time complying with their targets no matter what since the Clean Power Plan essentially forces them to restructure their electricity markets and regulations.
Is This An Attack On Fracking?
The Clean Power Plan has also been seen as an attack on natural gas-fired power, which has been made economical due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale. The oil and gas industry is worried the EPA’s rule ignores the role natural gas can play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions — when burned for electricity, natural gas emits less CO2 than coal. The Financial Times reported that the “US shale gas is the unexpected loser from President Barack Obama’s climate plan, as the White House abandons its previous enthusiasm for natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal.”
In recent years, the U.S. has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas thanks to hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting water, sand and some chemicals deep underground to unlock hydrocarbons trapped in shale formations. But industry leaders fear EPA could harm the industry. “With the reported shift in the plan, we believe the White House is perpetuating the false choice between renewables and gas,” Martin Durbin, president of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, told Oil and Gas Journal. “We don’t have to slow the trend toward gas in order to effectively and economically use renewables.”
Reports have come out, mainly with support from environmentalists and green energy backers, declaring the Clean Power Plan downplays natural gas’ role in reducing U.S. emissions. Instead, reports indicate the EPA is focusing on boosting green energy instead of gas. “With or without new regulations, gas will continue to grow as a critical source of clean energy, but EPA’s rule does more harm than good,” Howard Feldman with the American Petroleum Institute told OGJ.
Major natural gas producing states have also been hit with steep emissions targets mandated by the EPA. Texas, the country’s largest oil and gas producer, must reduce power plant emissions 33.5 percent below 2012 levels by 2030. The state gets twice as much energy from natural gas as it does from coal.
Democratic-led Pennsylvania is also being hit with tough emissions reductions mandates from EPA. The state must reduce emissions 34.9 percent by 2030. Pennsylvania is now the country’s second-largest natural gas producer thanks to fracking in the Marcellus Shale. The state even gets 37 percent of its electricity from nuclear, while coal and natural gas each provide slightly less.
Blue Dog Dems Backstabbed By Obama
What’s probably most interesting about energy states being hit hard by the Clean Power Plan, is that many of them also sport Democratic lawmakers who are now put in a tough position.
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp called the rule a “slap in the face,” according to Politico Pro. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin criticized the rule for being “utterly unrealistic.” Both of these lawmakers opposed the rule since its proposal, but now their states are some of the hardest hit.
North Dakota and West Virginia were initially given some of the smallest state emissions reductions targets by the EPA. In June 2014, the EPA said North Dakota would only have to reduce emissions 10.6 percent and West Virginia 19.8 percent by 2030. Now these states have to make much deeper cuts than the EPA initially told them. “Our President and his Administration think our country can do without coal, and they are dead wrong. They are in denial,” Manchin said in a statement condemning the rule.
Montana Democrats, who originally supported the rule, are now reeling after the EPA announced the state would have to reduce emissions even more than was initially proposed by the agency last year. Montana now has one of the highest CO2 emissions reduction mandates of any state. Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock complained that the EPA “moved the goal post on us,” saying that while “we need to address climate change” but added that “how we do so has to work for Montana.” The Montana’s AFL-CIO branch actually planned a press call in support of the rule, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, but it was cancelled after the union found out the EPA had increased the “reduction requirement.” The group called it a “gut punch.”
Even Democratic Sen. Jon Tester was cautious in his statement on the Clean Power Plan’s release, not condemning it but also not celebrating it being finalized. Tester told the Chronicle he needed “more time to review it to ensure it works for Montana and creates healthier communities and a stronger economy.”