Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is preparing to sue the Obama administration over pending regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. Walker said these rules would hit his state hard, causing job losses and energy-price increases.
“Top-down regulations and mandates from the federal government get in the way of innovation and growth in Wisconsin and states like ours,” Walker said in his State of the State Address Tuesday night.
“Therefore, I am working with our new attorney general to prepare a lawsuit challenging the newly proposed federal energy regulations,” Walker added. “These proposals could have a devastating impact on Wisconsin because we are so heavily dependent on manufacturing.”
Wisconsin adds to the growing list of states challenging Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at shutting down coal-fired power plants and spurring green energy growth. It’s unclear, however, which approach Walker’s administration will take when challenging the EPA’s rules.
Wisconsin gets about 62 percent of its electricity from coal power, according to federal data. About one-third of the state’s energy use is for industrial purposes, and state residents currently enjoy relatively low power rates, despite being in a region frequently hit by snow and cold.
About a dozen coal states are already locked in a legal battle with the EPA over these rules. These states, led by West Virginia, argue the EPA cannot regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act because they are already regulated under another part of the statute.
Most of these states joined a previous lawsuit filed by Murray Energy, a coal company, that says the EPA rules amount to “double regulation” and violate the Clean Air Act. Wisconsin could join these states, or craft its own legal argument against the EPA’s climate rules.
“According to recent reports, we could lose tens of thousands of jobs in our region, and rate-payers could see an increase of up to 29 percent,” Walker said. “We will fight to protect Wisconsin’s hard-working families.”
“Instead of fighting with states like Wisconsin, the federal government should work with us to find reasonable alternatives,” he added. “We can be both environmentally and economically sustainable.”
The EPA has unveiled two rules in the last two years that regulate carbon emissions from power plants. The first, proposed in fall 2013, would limit emissions from new power plants. This rule has been criticized because it sets emission limits so low that coal plants using the best technology can’t meet them. That is, unless they use carbon capture technology, which the industry says is not commercially proven.
In October, a federal judge threw out a suit by Nebraska challenging carbon emissions for new power plants, saying it was premature since the rule had not yet been finalized.
The second EPA climate rule was released last summer. It forces states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. This rule has been attacked by some states because it could force them to reorganize whole energy markets.
Coal states in particular have worried the rule will speed up coal plant retirements, lowering demand for coal and causing huge numbers of job losses.
“This administration’s extreme actions at EPA are being implemented because of President Obama’s view that climate is the most important issue that is facing mankind,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield. “While we all agree that climate is changing, we simply cannot agree with his plan, which will dramatically increase electricity costs, affect the reliability of the grid system, and will create additional obstacles to economic growth.”
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