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December 3, 2014

Why is NRDC Afraid of Democracy?

December 3, 2014
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This week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is meeting in Washington, DC to approve new model legislation that State Legislatures might later choose to adopt in part or in full to protect the proper role of legislative bodies against intrusions by Washington, DC edicts. But even before the ALEC conference has commenced, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is attacking an attempt to make regulations more democratic and responsive to the needs of regular Americans.

ALEC is the largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state lawmakers dedicated to limited government, free markets, and federalism. One important potential piece of model legislation that will be discussed this week is the Reliable, Affordable and Safe Power (RASP) Act. The purpose of this bill is to give the states more of a voice in the preparation of plans to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

As we explained in recent comments to EPA, EPA’s current plan to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants is illegal and not supported by the Clean Air Act (obviously EPA disputes this). We are not alone in our criticisms of EPA. For example, here are two more comments to EPA making more legal arguments explaining how flawed EPA’s regulations are.

The RASP Act notes that EPA’s plan is legally dubious and halts the expenditures of taxpayer’s dollars on plans to comply with EPA’s regulations until the legal issues are resolved. The RASP Act also calls for a more democratic voice in the preparation of plans to comply with EPA’s regulation by calling on the state legislatures to affirmatively vote on such plans.

It should not be controversial to wait for the legal disputes to be settled rather than waste taxpayer dollars on a legally dubious program. It is mere common sense to give the American people and their representatives a greater say in regulation that will drive up their electricity rates. But environmental groups like the NRDC are opposed to this plan.

On a conference call yesterday, E&E News reports on NRDC’s complaints:

Meanwhile, the resolution contains a litany of findings, including that the Clean Air Act rule would have no impact on world temperatures at all.

David Doniger, director of air and climate programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said on a call with reporters this afternoon that the bills would “paint states into a corner.”

ALEC’s offerings appeared to be relying on a “fiction” that climate change and air pollution issues are state issues when in fact they transcend state boundaries, he said, adding that interstate rules were the only way to curb carbon dioxide or ozone emissions effectively.

Doniger’s complaints are incoherent (but it’s also possible that the reporter did not accurately convey Doniger’s points). The RASP Act does not say anything that could be said to deny climate change or that climate change does not transcend state borders. It is possible that Doniger has not read the RASP Act or possibly he is referring to this statement in the RASP Act, “WHEREAS, the EPA has admitted this proposed rule will not measurably alter any impacts of climate change.” The problem for Mr. Doniger and his advocacy group is that this statement in the RASP Act is accurate.

In EPA’s proposed regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, EPA failed to estimate the actual temperature impact of the regulation. This is exceedingly curious given the fact that the entire point of the regulation is allegedly to reduce climate change and because EPA has a climate model which EPA has used in past regulations to estimate the temperature impacts of various reductions in carbon dioxide.

Because EPA failed to model the temperature impact of the regulation, climate scientists stepped in and used EPA’s model to supply the information. Chip Knappenberger and Pat Michaels, using EPA’s own MAGICC model found that the temperature impact of EPA’s regulation would be a mere 0.02°C temperature rise averted by 2100.  As Knappenberger and Michaels explain, “We’re not even sure how to put such a small number into practical terms, because, basically, the number is so small as to be undetectable.”

To further put 0.02°C in context, in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) temperature estimates of the whole earth have the margin of error is +/- 0.07°C. In other words, the impact of this regulation is less than a third of NOAA’s ability to reliably measure temperature.

But besides any complaints over climate and temperature, NRDC also complains that the RASP Act invites more democratic debate. E&E reports:

Doniger said, ALEC’s bills would make it even more difficult for states to weigh in with plans of their own by politicizing the process on the one hand by involving a partisan state legislature and inviting lawsuits on the other as states usurp an authority that belongs to the courts by granting themselves a stay “by fiat” on complying with the federal rule until litigation runs its course.

It is telling that that NRDC would prefer state elected officials not to have a vote on plans to comply with EPA’s expensive regulations, even though these plans will affect the lives of every single American.  Presumably NRDC would favor plans written by bureaucrats at the federal and state level instead of plans with input from democratically-elected officials. Indeed, rather than Mr. Doniger’s claim that offering States more say—as the ALEC resolution clearly does—somehow “paints States into a corner,” it appears NRDC and their allies at EPA, are the ones trying to paint states into a corner with additional Washington diktats. So much for Gina McCarthy’s oft-repeated claim (false) that under their plan, States have “more flexibility.”

The RASP Act is a commonsense, taxpayer-friendly, and democratic proposal to comply with EPA’s legally-dubious power plant regulations. Hopefully ALEC approves this model bill and rejects NRDC’s anti-democratic agenda. We should not be surprised, however, by NRDC’s reactionary attempts to stifle any efforts by State legislators to do what they are elected to do—represent their respective States. After all, it was NRDC, according to the New York Times, that actually wrote EPA’s power plant rules. With their pride of authorship on the line, NRDC will do whatever is necessary to continue their public relations campaign on behalf of the EPA to mislead people about what actually is in their plan, and that apparently includes bad-mouthing States whenever they seek to ensure their interests are protected.

Doniger and NRDC’s actions are reminiscent of Jonathon Gruber’s in the similar case of ObamaCare, when he pointed out that “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.” Lately, the agenda of many in and out of government on the Left seems based upon an undying belief that Americans and their representatives are stupid. Let’s hope state legislatures show Mr. Doniger and the NRDC that they are not nearly as stupid as he hopes them to be. A good start is ALEC’s model legislation.

 


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