Keeping energy affordable

For generations, the United States has benefitted from low cost and reliable energy. In many parts of the country, coal is the most abundant source that provides baseload electricity to heat and cool our homes and businesses. But it’s also a way of life. In Kentucky, 92 percent of our electricity is generated by coal contributing more than $3.5 billion to our economy and employing 17,900 miners across the state. Across the U.S., 48 states rely on coal to generate electricity for homes and businesses, making the industry responsible for 700,000 jobs.

Due to low energy costs, businesses and manufacturers are relocating in the U.S. to reap the benefits. As we experience an energy renaissance in our country, we are also witnessing the Obama administration wage an all-out assault on our energy abundance – deploying the EPA to do whatever it takes to shut down fossil fuel-fired power plants across the country. 

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Last June, the EPA proposed a rule through a rarely used section of the Clean Air Act, section 111(d), to vastly expand federal control over state electricity systems and require states to meet mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) “goals” set by the Agency for their respective electricity sectors. This proposed rule focuses on power plants, but it is only the first step in the administration’s plan to regulate other areas of our economy including sources such as refineries, industrial boilers, cement plants, pulp and paper mills, and steel mills.

Under this unprecedented proposal, which the administration refers to as its Clean Power Plan, states would be required to submit highly complex plans to EPA in 2016 and begin meeting interim goals for CO2 reductions by 2020, with a final goal of 2030.  Under the rule’s accelerated deadlines, state plans would be due before judicial review of the rule is even completed. The EPA is expected to finalize the rule this summer, despite thousands of comments and concerns in opposition.   

EPA’s power grab is a bad deal for the American economy, businesses, and ratepayers. The president’s own EPA estimates that its proposed rule would cost tens of billions of dollars and would be unworkable for many states.

A recent analysis of the proposed rule’s impacts on electricity prices in 31 states estimated that between 2017 and 2031, “Electricity prices will be 15 percent higher, on average, each year under the Clean Power Plan than they would be without the Clean Power Plan.” Unfortunately, the costs of the administration’s plan will fall disproportionally on those most vulnerable, especially lower income families where energy costs represent a larger portion of their family budgets. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have declined and are expected to remain flat through 2040 without the proposed Clean Power Plan or other actions beyond current policies to limit or reduce CO2 emissions.

The administration fully understands and admits unilateral climate action and implementation of this rule will have little impact on climate indicators in the U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Overnight Energy: Joshua Tree National Park lost M in fees due to shutdown | Dem senator, AGs back case against oil giants | Trump officials secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada Overnight Energy: Ethics panel clears Grijalva over settlement with staffer | DC aims to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 | Judges skeptical of challenge to Obama smog rule MORE has testified that “it is part of an overall strategy…positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”

The decision to alter the way we generate, consume, and transmit electricity should not be done in a manner that circumvents Congress. American consumers should know the facts and potential devastating effects of this proposed rule. The American people should have a voice.  That is why Congress is working on a bipartisan, thoughtful solution to protect ratepayers and keep energy affordable.  As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, I’ve conducted rigorous oversight of this rule through numerous hearings examining its costs, implementation challenges, and legal flaws.  I’ve introduced H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act, along with my colleagues, Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithOvernight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Six Republicans named to House climate panel House passes bill expressing support for NATO MORE (R-Va.), and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), to address EPA’s proposed rule on existing fossil fuel fired power plants.

The Ratepayer Protection Act is a practical solution that ensures states have ultimate control over their electricity systems. Given the considerable legal challenges to EPA’s proposal, the legislation would allow for completion of all judicial review of any final rule before requiring states to comply with the implementation deadlines of the proposed rule. The measure also ensures that a state would not be forced to implement a state or federal plan if its governor finds it would have significant adverse impact on ratepayers or reliability. States have been, and will always be, better suited to identifying their needs, especially when it comes to electricity rates and reliability. 

Increasing the price of electricity will only further set back families who are still struggling to get by. This week, the House of Representatives will vote on the bipartisan Ratepayer Protection Act to allow states to continue to control their electricity systems while protecting ratepayers from skyrocketing electricity costs and threats to electric reliability. It’s a win for the hardworking American people across the country that reflects our commitment to keeping jobs, the economy, and affordable energy among our top priorities. 

Whitfield has represented Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District since 1995.  He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee where he is chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power.