A soon-to-be-released report from the conservative Pelican Institute tallies the damage to Louisiana from yet another initiative of President Barack Obama’s administration, which seems to be at permanent war against Louisiana interests.
The report, a joint project with the Beacon Hill Institute of Suffolk University in Boston, tallies the projected costs of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules on carbon dioxide emissions. The rules would require power plants to cut in half the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per kilowatt hour of electricity production. Coal-burning plants, which provide nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity, would be especially hard hit.
Even the EPA estimates that compliance costs nationally would reach $50 billion; Beacon Hill says the costs will be much higher because, in its analysis, EPA uses obsolete amortization schedules and fails to estimate important macroeconomic effects, among other errors.
To be clear, these costs are nationwide, not just in Louisiana. But the new rules would provide emissions targets state by individual state. Pelican and Beacon say that by 2030, the new rules will cost Louisiana $136 million annually (in 2012-valued dollars) for new power plants and another $258 million for existing plants, while related restrictions on mercury emissions will cost the state $574 million. And they will drive up consumer electricity prices by 22 percent — a particular burden to low-income Louisianans who, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, spend a whopping 70 percent of their after-tax income on energy.
Other findings: The state economy would lose more than 16,000 jobs by 2030, suffer reductions in real disposable income by nearly $2 billion and lose significant investments.
These emission rules come on top of a long series of Obama policies or proposals that either directly or semi-directly have harmed, or would harm, Louisiana’s economy. First came Obama’s refusal to waive provisions of the federal Jones Act, requiring the use of American-flagged vessels, when foreign ships were offered to help clean up the BP oil spill. Then came his offshore drilling moratorium and then an illegal “permitorium,” in the aftermath of that calamity. Then, in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, Obama refused to waive provisions of the federal Stafford Act requiring disaster victims to repay the federal government for emergency assistance.
The Obama team’s serious prosecutorial misconduct blew up the results of the trial of New Orleans police for actions during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. Obama lawsuits have hampered Louisiana’s school choice initiatives. And what would be worst of all if it actually gained traction, Obama proposed that the federal government deprive Louisiana (and other Gulf states, but they have less skin in the game) of the revenue from offshore energy development that it was promised in carefully negotiated 2006 legislation.
And now this new rule, this Clean Power Plan — just one more Obama action, said Pelican Institute President Kevin Kane, that would “impose serious economic hardships on Louisiana.” The good news, he said, is this: “Like other recent federal power grabs, this is being challenged in the courts and may prove to be a short-lived initiative.”
Short-lived, that is, because they aren’t just costly but quite arguably unconstitutional. That’s the judgment not just of conservative activists but of one of the nation’s most revered liberal law professors and environmental-law crusaders, Laurence Tribe, of Harvard. In The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 22, Tribe wrote that in order to claim authority for the new rule, the EPA had “brazenly rewritten the history of an obscure section of the 1970 Clean Air Act.” Worse, he wrote, its attempt at “federal commandeering of state governments … violates principles of federalism that are basic to our constitutional order.”
Louisiana is right to be one of 12 states suing the EPA to stop this noxious emission of regulatory over-reach. And it will be right to eagerly count the days until this president is out of office, and out of Louisiana’s way.
New Orleans native Quin Hillyer is a contributing editor for National Review. You can follow him on Twitter, @QuinHillyer. His email address is email@example.com, and he blogs at blogs.theadvocate.com/quin-essential.