The EPA must respect the Supreme Court’s authority

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On June 9, 2016, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), following up on an earlier request for information on the agency’s actions on the Clean Power Plan following the Feb. 9 Supreme Court stay. Inhofe’s ensuing letter and earlier requests called into question the EPA’s actions on the plan, many of which compel individual states to spend resources working on it despite a legal obligation not to. Inhofe’s stand against the EPA is more than valid and supports a two-pronged defense against the agency’s disregard for our judicial system and irresponsible misuse of taxpayer dollars.

{mosads}Inhofe is right to question the EPA’s persistent encouraging of states to work on the Clean Power Plan, as those efforts are a dangerous move against the status quo. When the Supreme Court issued a stay on the plan in February, they were not simply suggesting that states halt their efforts. Rather, the highest court in the land was making it clear that it has serious reservations about the rule and finds that the plan, which would cost nearly $300 billion dollars, should be tabled pending a more thorough review. Regardless of any one opinion on the plan or the United States’ energy future, respecting the authority of our judiciary system should take priority.

But the judicial debate over the Clean Power Plan is no simple court case; it is a fundamental battle for the integrity of the U.S. utility sector. And wasting taxpayer dollars to comply with a rule that has no guarantee of ever coming to fruition and would cost a fortune if implemented is outlandish. Who knows how many federal employees are clocking hours on the plan, spending tax revenue and all the while working against the grain of our country’s energy reality?

Furthermore, the EPA is not only spending federal resources working on the plan; the agency is actively soliciting work from individual states. As Inhofe wrote in his first letter on March 10, the EPA’s efforts “erroneously encourage the spending of limited state resources to devise compliance strategies for a rule whose deadlines are tolled, and very likely will be overturned.” In April, the EPA submitted its Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) to the federal register, compelling states to burn through resources reviewing the rule and filing comments on it.

Adding insult to injury, the EPA officials themselves have even professed to stopping work on the plan. In an April 18 letter, they claimed that the “EPA has made clear that implementation and enforcement of the Clean Power Plan are on hold.” Given the recent CEIP filing and the agency’s continued work on model trading rules, this is definitively not the case.

It is reassuring to see Sen. Inhofe fighting to uphold our legal status quo and encouraging financial responsibility among the states. With a national debt reaching $20 trillion, states strapped for education funding and the ever-present reality of our country’s crumbling infrastructure, there is a laundry list of real, tangible needs for our taxpayers’ dollars. It’s only prudent for the EPA to respect judicial authority, make responsible decisions with their own funding and leave states to decide how to allocate theirs.

Alford is the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.


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