Why Wisconsin is Suing the EPA

Solar Panel

November 30, 2015

by Brad D. Schimel
Wisconsin Attorney General

The following column was originally published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the opinion section. The MacIver Institute obtained permission from the Attorney General’s office to publish it in its entirety here.

As a strong supporter of capitalism and the free market, certainly I don’t begrudge former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg his billions of dollars. I do find it ironic, though, that a man who fuels a private jet and heats his penthouse advocates for federal regulation that will significantly raise electricity rates and kill jobs in Wisconsin. In fact, it will be low income and older citizens on fixed incomes who will be hit the hardest.

Bloomberg recently began spending $10 million in TV ads against the attorneys general in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Florida, for fighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s unlawful “Clean Power Plan.”

Two lawsuits challenging different parts of the plan have been brought by 25 states and state agencies. The states are seeking to invalidate the rule, which effectively allows EPA to set state energy policy by manipulating the electricity market and controlling the electric grid, a role previously reserved for state regulators. The rule is an illegal expansion of EPA’s authority, beyond what is permitted by the Clean Air Act. The EPA is attempting to set energy policy for the states.

As one of the top manufacturing states in the country, Wisconsin has much to lose if the Obama administration succeeds in its plan to destroy the viability of clean-coal electric generation. Manufacturing jobs in our state depends on affordable and reliable electric power. Because of the degree to which our state economies rely on manufacturing jobs, we will be disproportionately affected by the president’s so-called “Clean Power Plan.”

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin estimates that costs to comply with the rule could be as high as $13 billion. What Bloomberg and the Obama administration do not want Americans to know is that those costs will be borne by homeowners and employers. The costs of the EPA rule will threaten our most reliable energy source and damage our ability to provide affordable energy to our citizens and manufacturing-based economy.

To make matters worse, the Obama EPA rule gives Wisconsin no credit for the $11 billion already invested to reduce carbon dioxide emissions since 2000. Wisconsin utilities are regulated by the Public Service Commission, which incentivizes them to improve and maintain fleets that are more efficient and produce lower emissions. As a result, over the past two decades, our utilities have closed many older coal-burning plants and have replaced them with some of the newest, most efficient and environmentally responsible coal-fired plants in the nation.

We take pride in the fact that we have been able to maintain a reliable base of electric generation while simultaneously reducing emissions. By the way, the costs for those improvements also already have been borne by consumers. But it will all be for naught if the Obama administration has its way.

We in Wisconsin have been and continue to be responsible environmental stewards while also protecting jobs. It is unfortunate, then, to see that our early, aggressive and measurable actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are largely ignored by the EPA. In fact, rather than recognizing and rewarding our leadership, the Clean Power Plan seriously penalizes Wisconsin relative to some other states that have taken little to no action on renewable energy, energy efficiency and traditional “inside the fence line” controls.

Instead of wasting his money on these dishonest and deceptive attack ads, Bloomberg should consider allocating those millions to a trust fund to help families in Wisconsin with lower or fixed incomes that stand to be harmed by drastically higher energy prices if the coalition of Republican and Democrat state attorneys general do not succeed in their challenge to the EPA’s edict.

This is not a discussion reserved for Wisconsin or even the United States alone. Not only will the EPA rule cause the U.S. to lose jobs to countries such as China and India, but the repercussions of the EPA rule actually may result in increased global carbon dioxide emissions. If American manufacturing jobs move to China and India, both of which rely heavily on uncontrolled coal-fired plants, there is a real potential that carbon dioxide emissions, along with emissions that actually do qualify as “pollution” under the Clean Air Act, will increase globally.

Even Bloomberg’s billions will not be able to undo that damage to our planet and to America’s economy.