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June 29, 2015

State Lawmakers, Minority Groups And Labor Unions Argue Against EPA Clean Air Act Regulations

This summer the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to release final versions of regulations governing emissions from both existing and new U.S. power plants. As the EPA’s release dates grow closer, state lawmakers have increased their efforts to oppose these rules. 

For example, last week Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said his state would not comply with the new regulations unless they are “improved” before they are finalized. In a letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Pence said, “The proposed rules are ill-conceived and poorly constructed and they exceed the EPA's legal authority under the Clean Air Act. If your administration proceeds to finalize the Clean Power Plan, and the final rule has not demonstrably and significantly been improved from the proposed rule, Indiana will not comply. Our state will also reserve the right to use any legal means available to block the rule from being implemented.” Gov. Pence was particularly concerned about the energy price increases that would result from the EPA’s plan. 

Advocacy groups have also increased their opposition to the pending EPA rules and to the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act in general. In an opinion column in the Des Moines Register, National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry C. Alford argued the energy price increases that would result from the regulations would harm minority communities disproportionately. Alford wrote, “These higher costs will be passed onto families in the form of higher electricity bills, which will be especially harmful to minorities. Today, blacks spend 50 percent more of their family incomes on utilities than whites, while Hispanics spend 10 percent more. Ultimately, this regulation will increase black and Hispanic energy burdens by around 35 percent.” 

In an effort to stall the EPA rules, the U.S. House last week passed the Ratepayer Protection Act on a 247 to 180 vote. This bill, which MSCI supported in a letter to all members of Congress, would extend the compliance dates for the EPA’s existing power plan rule until federal courts have fully addressed legal challenges to the rule. The bill would also allow states to opt out of complying with the regulation. The White House has said President Barack Obama will veto the bill. 

Meanwhile, labor unions are also challenging the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. According to a local news report, coal miners in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are assembling signatures for a class action lawsuit against the EPA that alleges the Clean Air Act did not undergo a proper peer review process when it was passed.