Facing tough reelection campaigns in coal states, many Democratic politicians have also broken ranks to voice their opposition. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) called the new rules “disastrous.” Democratic West Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Natalie Tenannt stated, “I will stand up to President Obama, Gina McCarthy and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs…” Running against incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes promised, “I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”
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Lawsuits and legislation may ultimately prevent this regulation from going forward; however, state and local governments have a simpler and more effective tool at their fingertips: “coordination.” Coordination is a little-known feature embedded in numerous environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970, the Endangered Species Act, and other laws.
Coordination requires the EPA and all other federal agencies to consider all effects of environmental regulations. These effects include:
ecological (such as the effects on natural resources and on the components, structures, and functioning of affected ecosystems), aesthetic, historic, cultural, economic, social, or health, whether direct, indirect, or cumulative. Effects may also include those resulting from actions which may have both beneficial and detrimental effects, even if on balance the agency believes that the effect will be beneficial. (emphasis added).
The federal agency must prepare an “environmental impact” statement that includes impacts on the human environment. This refers specifically to all those aspects listed above. According to the law, “‘Human environment’ shall be interpreted comprehensively to include the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment.” The agency is only exempt if the proposed regulation has “no significant impact.”
Since these new carbon regulations will have a devastating effect on multiple aspects of the human environment, the EPA cannot unilaterally apply them as proposed. The EPA must negotiate with state and local governments—they only have to ask. Not only will conventional energy sources be gravely weakened, but our nation will be set on a course to use more and more solar, wind, and other exotic power generation. These are three to four times more expensive than traditional energy, and will send residential electricity rates through the roof. If you recall, candidate Obama promised this very thing back in 2008, saying that “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Obama added, “So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can—it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
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Solar and wind facilities require huge amounts of space to generate even tiny amounts of electricity. For example, the Ivanpah solar farm in southern California provides 1.1 percent of California’s residential energy needs, but requires five square miles of ground. And every bit of those five square miles is filled with moving, tilting mirrors that follow the sun. High maintenance costs are assured. A solar farm scaled up to serve all California homes—never mind industry—would require 500 square miles, an area almost half the size of Rhode Island.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.