Clean Power Plan Hostility Arises on Campaign Trail

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By Anthony Adragna

Sept. 3 — Two Republican presidential candidates this week condemned the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's plan to address climate change, the latest in vocal opposition from their party to the Clean Power Plan.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told a crowd of energy officials Sept. 2 that as president he would stop the Obama administration's regulation to curb carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's fleet of existing power plants because it would “have a devastating impact on affordable energy in exchange for little to no environmental benefit.”

The same day Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) formally requested an immediate stay of the final rule from the EPA and asked for a reconsideration of the plan. Christie called it a “fundamentally flawed plan that threatens the progress we’ve already made in developing clean and renewable energy in New Jersey.”

None of the 17 major declared Republican candidates seeking the presidency—including several who acknowledge human activity contributes to climate change—have backed the Clean Power Plan. 

The EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33) on Aug. 3. The regulation sets unique carbon dioxide emissions rates or alternatively mass-based targets for the power sector in each state, but it tasks state regulators with developing plans to meet the targets.

Broader Rubio Criticism 

Rubio's comments about the Clean Power Plan came as he more broadly criticized the administration's approach to regulation and vowed to lean more heavily on private sector innovation as president.

“I’ll pursue a sweeping overhaul of the regulatory system to make sure costs and benefits of new rules are accurately accounted for and that localities, states and industries can meet the timelines I set forward,” Rubio said. “The days of arbitrary, damaging rules like the Clean Power Plan and the so-called waters of the U.S. mandate will come to an end.”

The Florida Republican sought to contrast himself with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton who has previously said defending the Clean Power Plan would be a “top priority” as president. Rubio also criticized Clinton for not speaking out forcefully on energy issues.

“For the most part, she resorts to empty rhetoric that refuses to chart much of a course in either direction,” Rubio said of Clinton. “This is no way to treat one of the most important issues of our time.”

Christie Will Fight Rule 

Unlike Rubio, Christie has acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change. Nevertheless, the New Jersey governor said his state would fight the “heavy-handed overreach of Washington” seen in the Clean Power Plan.

“The Clean Power Plan is yet another example of the Obama Administration inappropriately reaching far beyond its legal authority to implement more onerous and more burdensome regulations on businesses and state governments alike,” Christie said in a statement.

Some in the state strongly disagreed with Christie's position. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Christie's request for a stay showed the governor was “putting his misguided political aspirations over the wellbeing of New Jersey.”

“Governor Christie’s attempt is nothing more than a political maneuver to play to people outside of our state and it does not stand on solid ground,” Pallone said. “I am confident that the plan will be successfully implemented in New Jersey.”

New Jersey joins 17 other states in seeking an administrative stay of the regulation. Those states, led by West Virginia, argue the EPA has exceeded its statutory authority under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com