Virginia bill to stymie clean power plan welcomed by states' rights advocates
House Bill 1974, filed in the House of Delegates, would prohibit state agencies from implementing the Clean Power Plan without legislative approval.
The legislation does not mean the plan will definitely be blocked by Virginia, Mike Maharrey, communications director of the Tenth Amendment Center, a states’ rights organization, told EP News Wire.
But, he added, “It will require the state legislature to approve anything that Virginia departments are required to do. ... It will be subject to legislative approval. It brings the process into the public eye so that the state agencies do not make rules without oversight.”
The Clean Power Plan, a signature initiative by former President Obama to combat man-made climate change, is currently being contested in the courts.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments for and against the implementation of the plan in all states. It has yet to deliver judgment.
Twenty-seven states, and business groups, argue the EPA is exceeding its authority under the Clean Air Act. But many states are already implementing the plan, and 18, as well as D.C, defended the EPA against the challenge.
The plan requires states to develop strategies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Overall, the rule aims to slash power plants' CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
But if passed, the Virginia bill, introduced by state Delegate Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol), means that even if it passes through the courts and the state are told to develop those strategies, implementation could prove difficult.
“They could say this is not something we are going to move forward on and throw the entire thing back to the EPA to enforce,” Maharrey said. “It would be a huge stumbling block to the plan.”
Under the proposed law, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would be required to consider a number of specific factors when developing any state plan to comply with EPA emission standards, according to an analysis by the Tenth Amendment Center.
Before submitting any plan to the federal agency, the DEQ would have to submit it, along with a detailed report, to the state legislature for approval.
“Not later than 15 days following the completion of DEQ’s development of a state plan, DEQ shall transmit to the Senate and the House of Delegates a copy of the state plan and the accompanying report,” O’Quinn's bill states. “Upon receiving the state plan and accompanying report, the Senate and the House of Delegates shall vote on a resolution to approve the state plan after sufficient time has been provided to assess the state plan and accompanying report. ... The resolution shall be deemed approved by the Senate and the House of Delegates if each chamber casts a majority of votes in favor of the resolution."
While the proposed law would not guarantee the state would reject compliance with EPA mandates, it sets the foundation to do so, according to Maharrey.
“It also brings the entire process into the public spotlight, allowing Virginia residents to have input into it,” he added.
The Tenth Amendment Center backs the bill because its members believes the Constitution does not give the federal government any power to regulate air quality in states.
“If the federal government wants to regulate it is up to the federal government to amend the Constitution,” Maharrey said. “There is a reason that the states want to retain powers because local control is better than monopoly control.”
Whether the Trump administration will move forward with the Clean Power Plan is debatable. Incoming EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, sued the EPA over the plan. Maharrey described Pruitt as a “very pragmatic person.”