Few are the issues where the differences between conservatives and leftists are more striking than those involving air and water. Under the Obama administration, policies were put in place in the name of environmental stewardship that highlight these issues. One such policy is the Clean Power Plan, and another is the Waters of the U.S. Rule.
Unfortunately, the Cooper administration is clearly taking the side of these Obama-era regulations, despite their potential for harming North Carolina.
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is an Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set of rules that went into effect in August 2015. It requires states to develop plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, or otherwise accept a federal government-imposed plan. The plan requires power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030.
While leftists applauded the CPP as an effective way to combat global warming, conservatives found the government overreach fraught with the potential for negative consequences. For example, the Heritage Foundation issued a report stating that the plan would have adverse effects on electricity prices, personal and family income, jobs, and the overall gross domestic product of the United States. The resulting higher energy prices will affect the cost of doing business, which will likely result in jobs lost and the scaling back of new hiring.
The U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on the plan in February 2016. Some states had filed suit against the EPA, saying that the CPP was a massive federal government overreach. The Court opted to stay the plan, waiting for lower court rulings before it weighed in on the plan’s merits.
North Carolina was one of 23 other states involved with the legal action against the EPA. In October 2015, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) joined in the legal action, which essentially claimed that the EPA did not have the authority to implement the CPP rules, an assertion the EPA said it did have under the broader Clean Power Act.
Ironically, North Carolina had already reduced emissions under a 2002 North Carolina law known as the Clean Smokestacks Act.
In August 2015, DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart issued a statement saying, “North Carolina is on track to achieve President Obama’s stated goal of a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 from a 2005 baseline date without federal intrusion and will achieve this goal while keeping energy costs low. However, the final rule uses a 2012 baseline, which prohibits North Carolina from receiving credit for the reductions made between 2005 and 2012. As such, North Carolina’s nearly $3 billion of investments made under the Clean Smokestacks Act are ignored.”
Van der Vaart also said, “North Carolina will be penalized for passing the Clean Smokestacks Act instead of being rewarded for reducing air pollution earlier than required by federal law.”
When Gov. Pat McCrory signed the state onto the lawsuit, it was already making great progress in reducing emissions, and the CPP would have imposed more regulations that were not necessary. McCrory said in a statement, “Not only will these new federal rules raise electricity rates, they have the potential to jeopardize the success we’ve made in making North Carolina’s air the cleanest it’s been since we began tracking air quality back in the 1970s.”
Not long into Gov. Roy Cooper’s term, his DEQ Secretary Michael Regan issued a release announcing that the state is withdrawing from the CPP lawsuit. Regan said, “We feel that pursuing this potentially expensive legal challenge is not a good use of state resources, would not be in line with our agency’s mission to protect the environment, and would not serve the best interest of taxpayers.”
Newly elected NC Attorney General Josh Stein officially withdrew the state from the lawsuit.
In March 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that the EPA review the CPP to determine if it should be revised or withdrawn.
Recently, another distinction between leftists and conservatives has been made obvious, and it affects farmers and the state’s agriculture industry. The Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS) is like a water version of the CPP in its similar aggressive federal overreach.
WOTUS is an expansion of the reach of the Clean Water Act, which applies to waters that are deep and wide enough for maritime navigation. The rule would expand the application to wetlands and marshes that affect the large bodies of water.
Farmers are likely to be directly impacted by the rule, which the Farm Bureau has lobbied against. Larry Wooten, president of the NC Farm Bureau, said it is an attack on private property, yielding control of farmland to the federal government.
North Carolina joined a lawsuit with other 30 states against the WOTUS rule. And, as was the case with the CPP lawsuit, Cooper and Stein have withdrawn the state from the suit. Stein filed the withdrawal on behalf of the DEQ and Secretary Regan in mid-April.
Part of the rationale that was given for the withdrawal from the suit is based on Trump having issued an executive order calling for a review of the WOTUS rule.
However, NC Secretary of Agriculture Steve Troxler said the state should have stayed in the suit until the Trump administration’s actions regarding the rule are finalized, especially since the rule could adversely affect the state’s farmers.
Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender) filed an amendment to the House budget yesterday that would appropriate $250,000 to the Department of Agriculture so that Troxler can hire lawyers and rejoin the lawsuit.