The Washington Times - August 20, 2011, 10:10PM

(*8/21 - Updated with JS online quote)


Although Congress never managed to pass President Barack Obama’s cap and trade plan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations imposed on coal plants did the job for the president and Democrats on the hill pushing for C & T.

Back during the days of campaign 2008 Barack Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle: (emphasis is mine)

The problem is not technical, and the problem is not sufficient mastery of the legislative intricacies of Washington. 

The problem is, can you get the American people to say this is really important and force their representatives to do the right thing? That requires mobilizing a citizenry. That requires them understanding what is at stake, and climate change is a great example. 

When I was asked earlier about the issue of coal…under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket…even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad, because I’m capping greenhouse gasses, coal power plants, natural gas…you name it…whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retro-fit their operations.

That will cost money…they will pass that money on to the consumers. You can already see what the arguments are going to be during the general election.  People will say Obama and Al Gore …these folks…they’re going to destroy the economy. 

This is going to cost us 8 trillion dollars or whatever their number is.  If you can’t persuade the American people that, yes,  there is going to be  some increase on electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage and changing light bulbs and more efficient appliances, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy that the economy will benefit. 

If we can’t make that argument persuasively enough, you can be Lyndon Johnson.  You can be the master of Washington.  You’re not gonna get that done.

The Washington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel are now reporting that the White House is using the EPA to put forth a strangle hold on coal plants that will jack up energy rates on the consumer and shut down coal plants. According to the Journal Sentinel:(emphasis is mine)

The new rule has been in development for several years but the first phase of compliance hits utilities in 2012. WPS said it won’t have time to install pollution controls by next year at its plants, but will be able to comply by purchasing credits from other utilities that have cut emissions.

The utility also said it plans to operate its coal plants less next year than it otherwise would have, and will buy more power from the Midwest wholesale power market as a result, a move that it said is also a factor in higher costs for customers.

“This is the best option we have to meet power supply needs for 2012 and comply with the new EPA rule at this time,” said Karen Kollmann, WPS director of fuels management in a statement.

On Thursday, Wisconsin Power & Light Co. of Madison said it would face an additional $9 million in costs linked to the air pollution rule. With the change, the utility is now seeking an increase in 2012 of $20 million, or 2%, utility finance manager Martin Seitz said in a filing with state regulators.

Essentially the American people got cap and trade by bureaucratic imposed fiat via the EPA. According to the the Washington Post: (emphasis is mine)

Over the next 18 months, the Environmental Protection Agency will finalize a flurry of new rules to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants. Mercury, smog, ozone, greenhouse gases, water intake, coal ash—it’s all getting regulated. And, not surprisingly, some lawmakers are grumbling.

Industry groups such the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, and the American Legislative Exchange Council have dubbed the coming rules “EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck.” The regulations, they say, will cost utilities up to $129 billion and force them to retire one-fifth of coal capacity. Given that coal provides 45 percent of the country’s power, that means higher electric bills, more blackouts and fewer jobs. The doomsday scenario has alarmed Republicans in the House, who have been scrambling to block the measures. Environmental groups retort that the rules will bring sizeable public health benefits, and that industry groups have been exaggerating the costs of environmental regulations since they were first created. 

The New Republic quotes Frank Litz in an April piece. Mr. Litz  wrote a World Resources Institute Report that suggests ways the EPA can cut greenhouse gasses without making it “look like a cap-and-trade approach.”  (emphasis is mine)

But much depends on the choices agency officials make. “If the EPA’s feeling gun-shy over scrutiny from Congress, they may not want to use these rules to their full potential,” says Franz Litz, who wrote the WRI report. To take just one example, the agency could decide that older coal plants only have to make efficiency upgrades to curb pollution—in which case a modest cut in emissions is about the best that could be expected. Or the agency could recommend that coal plants co-fire their boilers with biomass—or even switch to natural gas—in which case the rules would prompt deep reductions. A lot also hinges on how much flexibility the EPA gives states to implement these cuts—if states are allowed to enact some sort of permit-trading program, they could get steeper cuts for less cost. “But,” says Litz, “the agency might not want to set up anything that looks like a cap-and-trade approach,” given that conservatives have turned “cap-and-trade” into a dirty phrase.

Apparently, Obama got his cap and trade plan goals out there, but he did an end run around Congress to do it.