Governors use ‘state of the state’ speeches to open fire on EPA’s Clean Power Plan 

Source: Scott Detrow, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nearly half of the nation’s governors have already laid out their priorities for climate change, and U.S. EPA’s rules lowering the power sector’s greenhouse gas emissions were far from an overarching theme. But several Republican governors used the regulation as a target.

So far, no one has embraced the EPA rules. Two Democrats laid out aggressive climate change actions that would likely reduce greenhouse gas emissions far beyond their states’ Clean Power Plan goals.

Then there was Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R). He spent a significant portion of his speech lambasting President Obama’s energy policies. “In my lifetime, I have never seen an onslaught against a single industry, a single commodity, like the Obama administration’s anti-coal agenda,” he said.

At times, Mead’s speech read like an ode to coal. “It keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” he said. “It keeps the lights on and the factories humming.” When it comes to both consumption and production, according to Energy Information Administration data, coal is king in Wyoming: The state produces more of it than anywhere else in the country and relies on coal for the vast majority of its energy needs.

The Clean Power Plan, which Wyoming has sued to block, requires the state’s power sector to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent (ClimateWire, Nov. 13, 2014). Regardless, Mead voted to “continue to work with bulldog determination on coal initiatives, port expansion, next technology and value-added products. We don’t need to let up, we need to double down. We must assure coal’s continuity.”

Two other Republican governors — both considered 2016 presidential prospects — addressed EPA’s energy regulations, as well.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced the Badger State will soon file suit against the Clean Power Plan. “These proposals could have a devastating impact on Wisconsin because we are so heavily dependent on manufacturing,” he told lawmakers.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who hasn’t been as aggressive as Walker about a White House bid but is still considered a possible candidate, made a broader mention of the impending power plant rules. “Know this,” he said. “Indiana is a pro-coal state, and we must continue to oppose the overreaching schemes of the EPA until we bring this war on coal to an end.”

Threats of legislative action in coal states

EPA’s final rules won’t be released until midsummer, and state compliance plans aren’t due until 2016 at the earliest. But states, especially Republican-controlled states skeptical of the regulations, may still act on the matter this year.

The influential American Legislative Exchange Council has prepared draft measures that would slow down compliance by requiring legislative signoff on state proposals (ClimateWire, Dec. 9, 2014). Several legislative bodies are also considering measures similar to a Kentucky law barring the state from submitting a plan that utilizes expanded renewable energy or natural-gas-fired power plants for compliance (Greenwire, Jan. 12).

Air regulators have repeatedly warned against those types of restrictions (ClimateWire, Dec. 10, 2014).

Meanwhile, on the other end of the ideological spectrum, two West Coast Democrats pitched aggressive policies aimed at lowering their states’ carbon footprints. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee pitched a cap-and-trade program he unveiled last month. “We have a moral obligation to act,” he told lawmakers. “Our moral duty is to protect a birthright. Future Washingtonians deserve a healthy Washington.”

Visions of cap-and-trade money in the far West

Inslee has been focusing less on morals and more on money in his pitch to lawmakers, though. Revenue from the cap-and-trade program, he said, could be used to help fill the state’s budget gap (ClimateWire, Dec. 18, 2014).

But perhaps the most aggressive climate change policies belonged to California’s Jerry Brown, who delivered his State of the State address earlier this month after being sworn into an unprecedented fourth term as the Golden State’s chief executive.

Brown called on lawmakers to set policies to reduce fossil fuel-based fuel use in vehicles by 50 percent by 2030. And during that time frame, he urged the state to get to a point where half of its electricity comes from renewable energy (E&ENews PM, Jan. 5).

“All of this is a very tall order,” he said. “It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities.

“This is exciting,” Brown added. “It is bold, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.”