Dan Simmons of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) today posts a stinging rebuke to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council and the “Reliable, Safe and Affordable Power (RASP) Act.”
Quick background: RASP is a model bill for state lawmakers. It is likely to be considered this week at ALEC’s annual Washington, D.C. meeting. ALEC is the non-partisan association of state lawmakers dedicated to limited government, free markets, and federalism.
RASP instructs state agencies (1) not to prepare to implement EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) until the rule’s legality has been fully resolved in courts, and (2) not to expend funds to execute a CPP implementation plan until committees of jurisdiction in the state legislature approve the plan.
The first of those restrictions is protection against government waste. The CPP is a legal mess, so it makes no sense for states to develop implementation plans until the judicial system resolves the many predictable legal controversies. The second restriction safeguards democracy by ensuring that state elected officials, not bureaucrats, have the final say in how the state implements the CPP in the unlikely event courts uphold the rule.
Yesterday, NRDC hosted a press conference call in which spokespersons for the group asserted that RASP would “paint states into a corner” and make it harder for them to shape their own policies, according to E&E News. NRDC’s point seems to be that if a state refuses to submit its own implementation plan, EPA will impose a federal plan without input from state officials.
That threat is an empty suit. Unlike all previous EPA rules requiring states to adopt emission performance standards for “existing” stationary sources under §111(d) of the Clean Air Act, CPP performance standards cannot be achieved by requiring installation of specific control technologies at “designated facilities” — a power clearly within EPA’s jurisdiction.
Rather, the standards can be achieved only by enacting or amending state electricity laws and regulations. Only state lawmakers and agencies acting pursuant to state statutes have such authority. If states ‘just say no,’ EPA is out of luck. EPA cannot impose its own plan, because the agency has no authority to enact or amend state renewable energy requirements, generation fleet dispatch policies, or demand-reduction incentives like rebates for programmable thermostats.
What’s more, as attorney Peter Glaser points out, EPA can’t even threaten to punish the state with loss of highway funding, because the Clean Air Act does not authorize sanctions for failure to comply with §111(d).
Wonderful news, though it’s not the main point of this post. Simmons provides new evidence (new to me, anyway) that the CPP’s hypothetical climate impact is too tiny measure or verify.
As noted previously on this blog, Cato Institute scientists Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, using MAGICC, a climate model developed with EPA support, estimate the CPP will avert less than 0.02°C of global warming by 2100. Simmons quotes the two scientists on the CPP’s insignificance as climate policy: “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.”
Simmons goes on to document that, at least with current observational technology, the CPP’s hypothetical climate impact is too small to be measured.
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.