New Resolutions from the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force
Earlier this summer, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) gathered in Indianapolis for the organization’s 43nd Annual Meeting. The nine ALEC task forces gathered to discuss policy ideas and, in some cases, pass model language or position statements on a wide variety of topics.
During its meeting, the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force passed two resolutions that the ALEC Board of Directors give final approval to within the last couple weeks.
This resolution acknowledges the negative impacts that overly burdensome and duplicative environmental regulations have imposed on the coal industry. In 2005, coal was responsible for providing 50 percent of the nation’s electricity, compared to 33 percent in 2015 and an estimated 18 percent in 2040. Certainly market forces (i.e., increased production of cheap natural gas) have played a role, but so have a multitude of regulations promulgated in just the last few years: more stringent ambient air quality standards for ozone, fine particles, and sulfur dioxide; new rules addressing interstate transport of air pollutants; ongoing regional haze requirements; requirements for coal combustion residuals; etc.
In light of these recently-imposed regulations, this resolution calls upon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to analyze the combined potential impacts of any future regulations it plans to impose on coal-fired power plants and to share this analysis with the states. This analysis should include the impact on the electricity sector, jobs, energy prices, individual states, and regions of the country. Furthermore, this resolution calls upon Congress to require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide an independent cost/benefit analysis of all major EPA rules.
On July 19, 2015 the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) within the U.S. Department of the Interior published a proposed rule (80 Fed. Reg. 44435) that addressed, among other things, the protection of streams affected by surface coal mining and reclamation operations. This resolution holds that the rule exceeds OSMRE’s statutory authority and infringes on the authority and ability of states to implement the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), the principal federal law that currently regulates the environmental effects of coal mining within the U.S. The potential economic impact of the Stream Protection Rule is considerable. According to an independent analysis, roughly 80,000 workers could lose their jobs, while energy prices are driven up for families and businesses across the country.
In light of these facts, the resolution calls upon the Department of the Interior to withdraw the rule and then proceed to work – as per Congressional directive – with states, industry and the public to develop a more appropriate rule. The resolution further encourages states attorneys general to engage in opposition to the rule and for Congress to explore legislative options to overturn the rule.