By Senator John Thune
If there is one thing for which the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be counted on, it is the repeated issuance of rules and regulations that stifle growth and make life harder and more costly for American families and businesses. The agency, stocked with a seemingly endless amount of red tape, lived up to its reputation earlier this month when it approved the final rule of the so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which could be more accurately described as a backdoor national energy tax.
This national energy tax is unwelcome news for South Dakota consumers because it will hurt jobs, cause costs to skyrocket, and threaten our grid reliability. South Dakota is an energy-intense state – we have cold winters and hot summers. As a result, South Dakota families spend a high share of their income on energy costs. While consumers across the state are likely to feel the pain from this burdensome new regulation, it is low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes who will be hit the hardest. Many families are already finding it difficult to make ends meet. Higher energy costs – and the resulting costs that will be added to existing products and services – will only make that struggle more problematic.
The EPA’s rule will require a 32 percent across-the-board reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Such a dramatic rate reduction will target the heart of America’s affordable and reliable coal generation. South Dakota’s state reduction target is 47 percent, which is one of the highest in the country and far exceeds the national average.
For the Big Stone Plant, which is South Dakota’s only major coal-fired electric generating unit and nearing completion of a $384 million environmental upgrade, the dust has yet to settle on existing regulations that the EPA has piled on it, including Regional Haze and Utility MACT. Despite the Big Stone Plant soon becoming one of the cleanest plants in the country, the EPA’s latest set of rules will threaten the plant’s multi-million dollar investment. In order to recoup this investment, it may be forced to pass its costs onto ratepayers.
In January, I wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on the agency to think twice about the impact their D.C.-based rule-making process would have on South Dakotans halfway across the country. I urged Administrator McCarthy to abandon these rules, or at the very least, reconsider South Dakota’s emission reduction target to more accurately reflect our existing energy portfolio and the investments utility companies and ratepayers have already made in efficiency upgrades. Not only did the EPA move forward with these rules anyway, but South Dakota’s emission reduction target actually increased in the final rule.
I have said it before: Rule-makers in Washington’s concrete jungle, whether intentionally or unintentionally, force one-size-fits-all rules that oftentimes have a devastating impact on agriculture producers, homeowners, and small businesses across the country. With its national energy tax, the Obama EPA has struck again. I will continue to do all I can to see that this ill-conceived rule is reversed.