Justice Antonin Scalia
As you may know, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away suddenly over the weekend. Justice Scalia was a clever, principled, incisive jurist and, by all accounts, was a great man. I join countless Americans in offering my condolences and prayers to his wife, family, and loved ones.
I have always thought Justice Scalia’s opinions were among the best. His voice on the Supreme Court will be greatly missed.
One of Justice Scalia’s final decisions was slated to be the subject of this week’s column. As you will see below, it is significant, particularly to Appalachia and other coal-producing regions.
A Supreme Rejection of the So-Called Clean Power Plan
In previous columns, I have written numerous times about the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. As you may recall, as part of this plan, states must develop and implement a strategy to reduce their carbon footprint. Most agree this means states will have to reduce the amount of energy generated in their state by coal.
The Obama Administration has been working to finalize its Clean Power Plan despite lawsuits arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is acting outside its authority in seeking to regulate existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act because the EPA already regulates them under Section 112.
Importantly, prior interpretation by both EPA and the courts would prohibit such dual regulation.
Last week, in what will be among the final majority rulings for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court granted a stay in the Chamber of Commerce v. EPA case, blocking the Clean Power Plan until legal action is completed.
This is a welcome development for me and many others.
Regular readers of this column may recall that I joined Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) in introducing the Ratepayer Protection Act (H.R. 2042), which, among other things, would allow for completion of judicial review of any final rule in the Clean Power Plan before states are required to comply with its implementation.
In my opinion, delaying the legal question until after the rule is final would only serve to close down coal mines, coal-powered power plants, and electric generation units, costing many coal miners in the Ninth District their jobs and causing electric rates to be higher than they otherwise would have been. Accordingly, I have long believed the courts must have their say on the legality of the Clean Power Plan before states are required to spend a significant amount of money and resources on its implementation.
Perhaps, as has been speculated in the press, the Supreme Court learned a lesson from their recent decision on the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule, which was intended to limit mercury emissions from power plants.
In June of last year, the Supreme Court ruled the EPA had inappropriately ignored the costs of the MATS rules. But regrettably, this decision came down late enough that two coal-powered Electrical Generating Units in the Ninth District alone had closed down less than 60 days before the Justices ruled the EPA did not have authority to issue the MATS rule as written.
In powerful testimony regarding the Clean Power Plan before me and my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe said, “EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress, and the Federal Courts – all at once. Much is up for grabs in this complex area. But burning the Constitution of the United States – about which I care deeply – cannot be part of our national energy policy…”
I agree, and commend those leading the charge in the courts against the Clean Power Plan.
While last week’s ruling is a ray of light suggesting that the Justices are skeptical of the Clean Power Plan’s legality, it does not mean we are out of the woods. The fight against this plan will continue, as will our ongoing efforts to advance policies increasing access to affordable, reliable energy and helping keep and grow jobs for hardworking Americans.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.