NASHVILLE – The Tennessee General Assembly’s Joint Government Operations Committee heard testimony on Tuesday from leading state and industry officials regarding two rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which have received heavy criticism for their potential to negatively affect energy consumers and landowners across the state. One rule would set limits on carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act, while the other defines the scope of waters in the U.S. subject to the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction.
“The testimony we heard Tuesday makes it very clear that the rules proposed by the EPA not only overstep their jurisdiction, but if enacted will cost Tennesseans greatly in terms of higher electric bills, job loss and productivity,” said Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell. “The founding fathers never intended for the federal government to be preeminent in every facet of our daily lives. These rules go far beyond their constitutional authority, stripping the state of its authority in this regard and encroaching on the personal liberties of our citizens.”
Tennessee Commissioner of Environment and Conservation Bob Martineau briefed Committee members on 97 pages of comments that the state made in response to the Clean Air Act rule. He said the state requested that the carbon emission reduction targets set by the EPA for Tennessee be “reduced and adjusted.” Several presenters at the meeting called the targets “unattainable.” They also said the proposed rules punish states, like Tennessee, which made early efforts to reduce carbon emissions prior to the 2012 benchmark used in calculating state-based reduction targets.
Paul Bailey of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy said their studies project an average annual increase in retail electricity prices of 14% to 18% over the next decade.
On the “Waters of the U.S. – Clean Water Act,” Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said the proposed rule would have a “tremendous potential impact on Tennessee agriculture. “This rule is putting innocent citizens at great legal jeopardy if it is not clear and succinct about what waters of the United States are,” he said.
“This proposed federal rule has the potential to affect even the most minor streams and standing water on personal property,” added Bell. “This is a huge issue for farmers, homebuilders, businesses and landowners in Tennessee.”
Justin Owen, President and CEO of the Beacon Center, told committee members, “These federal rules ignore the different and unique energy portfolios, needs and problems faced by each individual state. For example, because Tennessee relies more heavily on electricity generated by coal-fired plants, our state citizens will be burdened more severely than those in other states.”
Owen said a Suffolk University study shows that emission rules on new power plants could cost upwards of $208 million in Tennessee. The rule for existing plants could cost $394 million according to the study, while the mercury emissions rule could cost $727 million, for a total of more than $1.3 billion.
Bell said he will co-sponsor a resolution proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to require that, whenever one quarter of the members of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate transmit to the President their written declaration of opposition to a proposed federal regulation, a majority vote of the House and Senate is required to adopt such regulation. The lawmakers hope this act will prevent agencies from bypassing congressional authority in the rulemaking process. He also said the committee will look at options for Tennessee to join other states in taking legal action against these rules if they are implemented.
“We heard compelling testimony confirming our concerns that Tennessee will suffer greatly if these rules are adopted,” Bell added. “There are huge issues with the constitutionality of the proposals. We will carefully consider our options to fight back against this federal overreach which would be detrimental to our state and its citizens.”
To review the materials, including an executive summary of the state’s comments go to: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/joint/committees/gov-opps/RulesPackets/Packet%20Part%201.pdf (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the packet 12-16-14)
To review the testimony, you can access the video at:
http://wapp.legislature.state.tn.us/apps/videowrapper/default.aspx?CommID=400005 (Go to the Dec 16, 2014 video at 8:53 AM)