(Above: Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange pledges to fight the Obama Administration in court if they push forward with “illegal” EPA regulations)
Elected officials testified, activists staged protests and rival interest groups sparred during the first day of the Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearings in Atlanta, but the two sides remain far apart on whether the EPA’s recently-proposed more stringent regulations on power plants will crush the economy without any appreciable benefit, or save the planet from apocalyptic ruin.
The proposed EPA regulations force the State of Alabama to cut power plant carbon emissions by roughly 30 percent by 2030. More than half of all the electricity Alabama Power generates in the state comes from coal-fired plants, which critics say are the real targets of the proposed regulations. Additionally, more than 16,000 Alabama jobs are dependent upon the coal industry, which has an estimated $1.3 billion economic impact on the state.
But although their was a clear ideological divide between activists from the two sides on Tuesday, the elected representatives from The Yellowhammer State who testified were clearly united in opposition to the regulations.
Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh, Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden and Blaine Galliher, Senior Advisor to Governor Bentley, all delivered face-to-face rebukes to the EPA administrators sitting across from them (more on their testimonies soon).
But the most senior Alabama elected official at the hearings, Attorney General Luther Strange, may have been the most explicit in his opposition to the regulations, vowing to use his authority to fight the EPA in court should they continue to push forward.
“The proposal is illegal,” Strange said bluntly. “It does not comply with the Clean Air Act, which is the argument that I made today. The EPA has simply decided to disregard the limits of the law.”
Strange also echoed a statement made by Governor Bentley on Monday, saying the regulations would have a “devastating” impact on Alabama’s economy.
A newly released study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts the Obama administration’s environmental mandates will cost the United States more than 220,000 jobs over the next several years.
According to the study, the proposed regulations will have a disproportionate impact on southern states, where energy costs would jump by $6.6 billion per year over the next decade-and-a-half. The “East-South-Central” region of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky would see its GDP shrink by an estimated $2.2 billion and would lose 21,400 jobs as a result of the plan.
“It’s devastating to our economy,” said Strange. “It raises (energy) rates on our poorest citizens. It also puts our coal miners out of business. And as I told the panel today, it won’t do anything to effect global warming.”
Strange closed by hammering the Obama administration for operating outside of the bounds of the Constitution.
“I think this EPA proposal is a perfect example of this administration’s tendency to overreach,” he said. “Congress passes the law — it’s fairly clear on what it wants to do. Then the administration takes that law and goes way beyond what Congress intended. This nation’s built on the rule of law. If we don’t expect our regulators and our president to follow the law, then we’re simply not going to be the country we’ve always been. I think the administration in Washington has an agenda to push this rule. So if they don’t take into account our concerns and they don’t follow the law, then we will take them to court.”
The EPA public hearings continue on Wednesday, with several other Alabama elected officials and activists scheduled to testify. Check back on Yellowhammer throughout the week for more updates on the EPA proceedings, which may have a more immediate and direct impact on Alabama families than any other current issue on the national level.
Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims
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