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Last week, Tennessee’s public utility regulator, Kenneth Hill, argued in the Wall Street Journal that states should boycott the EPA’s Clean Coal Plan, forcing the feds themselves to take full responsibility for whatever obligations they impose. I examine that argument and other aspects of the proposed program in my new column for Defining Ideas, and find the entire project wanting:
EPA [Administrator Gina] McCarthy praises the flexibility of her plans, by noting that the EPA “can look at stringency, timing, phasing-in, glide path,” and a lot else to make sure that grid reliability is not impaired. But therein lies part of the problem, for the question is just how much discretion should the EPA have in making decisions that could cost individual states and firms billions, especially since it appears that its direct regulatory authority to implement on its own only direct regulation of emissions from designated facilities. It looks therefore that the threat of very heavy direct cuts in output could be used to lever states to make alterations in local policy that the EPA is powerless to impose under its own authority. At this point, the crafty game of extending powers through threats does give rise to a serious constitutional challenge, as the EPA seeks to implement indirectly measures that it could not impose directly.
That’s the question I examine in the newest installment of my column for Hoover’s Defining Ideas. California has recently enacted a series of carbon regulations so sweeping that they have the practical effect of regulating behavior throughout the nation. As I note in the column, it is, in my judgment, time for this issue to be heard by the Supreme Court.
The reason this case is so important is that California’s regulations essentially usurp the powers of the federal legislative branch. As I argue: