Critics of President Barack Obama’s landmark regulation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions almost always highlight a series of flawed studies (which are often paid for by utility or fossil fuel interests) to attack the Clean Power Plan.
Many of these flawed, industry-backed reports analyzed the EPA’s draft rules or a broad idea of regulating existing emissions, instead of the EPA’s final (and official) draft regulations. Some studies admit they did not study the actual EPA regulations, other studies inflate the costs of regulation, and some ignore the health and/or the economic benefits associated with reducing the level of pollution emissions. Furthermore, these error-filled reports are already outdated since the final version of the Clean Power Plan changes how state targets are calculated, eliminates assumptions related to energy efficiency, pushes back the interim compliance date to 2022, provides incentives for renewable energy deployment, just to name a few of the changes from the draft.
This Energy & Policy Institute briefing outlines the studies frequently used by pundits and special interests to attack the Clean Power Plan, details who has been paid or consulted in the production of these reports, and exposes the front groups involved in circulating the following reports:
Lawyers from coal-dependent states, led by West Virginia, are challenging President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Joining their effort is an army of industry-funded law firms that specialize in fighting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Together, they will argue that the EPA does not have any authority under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to issue the carbon regulations; they will also contest the legality of the “fence line” used to set state emission targets. Yet, buried in coverage of the litigation is the fact that the coalition suing the EPA is connected to some of the largest electric utility companies in the country – and many have purposefully kept themselves at arms’ length so that their customers never know they are funding lawyers who are working to stop one of President Obama’s main pillars to fight climate change. Policymakers, regulators, and customers should know what electricity companies are secretly working together with coal companies to sue the EPA.
Below is a network map built using the LittleSis free database. It details connections between powerful people and organizations; the data is derived from government filings, news articles, and other reputable sources. This map illustrates the links between the handful of lawyers involved in the litigation against the Clean Power Plan and the companies paying their firms.
The National Mining Association (NMA), shown in the middle of the LittleSis network map, filed a stay with the EPA to stop the plan from going into effect earlier this month. This is in addition to a stay filed on August 5 by the coal-dependent states that has recently resulted in the attorneys general filing an emergency petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking for federal judges to postpone the rule’s deadlines.
NMA was represented by Troutman Sanders in Michigan et al. vs. EPA, which was the case decided in June regarding the mercury and air toxics standard (MATS). NMA is also a member in the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG), run by attorneys at Hunton & Williams. Clicking on NMA in the network map will highlight the connections and reveal the manner in which the trade association is linked to the companies and/or lawyers.
After the Clean Power Plan was released, The New York Times reported that Peter Glaser, an attorney at Troutman Sanders, has been holding meetings with Roger Martella Jr. of Sidley Austin to devise the legal strategy to throw out EPA’s regulation via the courts. Additionally, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), another trade association that is also a member of the Utility Air Regulatory Group and includes Southern Company as a member, said, “It’s illegal and we will not stop opposing it until it is withdrawn completely.” ACCCE is shown above NMA in the network map and is linked to other companies besides Southern.
And, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a group of power and coal companies run out of Bracewell & Giuliani that also pays Hunton & Williams, said the that final plan still intrudes into state affairs and that it contains issues that could expose it to significant legal challenges.
Senior Fellow Tim Schoechle appeared on KGNU News for a 30-minute segment on the future of utilities and solar. Listen to the segment here.
“Solar panels are just as efficient at small scale as they are at large.”
Timothy Schoechle says to understand how electricity is currently priced, we need to look at its history. Schoechle says that in the early days, in the late 1800s early 1900s, electricity was extremely capital intensive and required huge construction like dams, coal plants and transmission facilities. Schoechle says a new system of monopolies was started in 1907 by the Edison Company which laid out the future of electric pricing. “They created a system of monopolies throughout all the states, to guarantee reliable power in exchange for guaranteed high rates of return for those companies. The business model they developed over that 100 years was based on two things, selling kilowatt hours/electricity to customers at a guaranteed price and also, more importantly, getting 10-12% return on capital assets that they built.” He says now that economy of scale doesn’t work for renewable energies like solar “solar panels are just as efficient at small scale as they are at large.”
Schoechle has written about the cost effectiveness of small scale solar in the latest edition of Solar Today. In it he rebuts a new report by the Brattle Group which says that utility scale solar generation is more cost effective than small scale solar.
On August 5, sixteen states requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stay the final Clean Power Plan rule. Led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the group of states want the rules to be placed on hold until their lawsuits, challenging the legality of the EPA using Section 111(d) of the Clean Air to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, are settled. The states that joined in the request are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Kentucky.
The EPA will surely ignore the states' request resulting in the parties to then file the request in court. According to a July report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, parties requesting a stay must demonstrate that:
- the litigant is likely to succeed on the merits;
- absent a stay, the litigant will suffer irreparable harm in the time it takes to decide the case on a normal schedule;
- a stay would not substantially injure other parties to the case; and
- a stay would service the public interest.
The NRDC report further states:
It will be particularly difficult for opponents of the Clean Power Plan to show irreparable injury in the roughly one-year time frame necessary to decide the case on a normal schedule... States are unlikely to succeed by claiming that writing a state plan is an irreparable harm, especially because they have the right to refuse to write a plan and to leave it to EPA to regulate power plants directly.
While the states' legal strategy of requesting a stay proceeds, which will perhaps take several months, another development is likely to occur when the Clean Power Plan is published in the Federal Register. Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association, told E&E TV that a legal challenge will be filed at the time of publication. "We will file our legal challenge to the rule, and we expect many states to join in filing their legal challenges," said Quinn.
The National Mining Association is a trade association with utility members such as Luminant and PacifiCorp Energy, and coal companies such as Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy, Murray Energy, and Peabody Energy.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final draft of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) today, which will require states to reduce the carbon pollution from power plants operating within their borders, just a few months before the international climate change conference convenes in Paris.
Power plants are the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution and the EPA’s CPP will limit those emissions. Since the plan will bring about a cleaner economy many fossil fuel corporations and the Koch Brothers’ network of “free-market” front groups are fighting to prevent states from implementing the CPP.
Below are ten industry-funded front groups that have attempted to stop Obama’s plan to combat climate change and will likely continue through the remainder of his presidency. This list is meant to inform reporters and state officials working on the implementation of the CPP about the organizations that will attempt to influence the debate surrounding these important climate regulations.