Rep. Whitfield expects House to pass Ratepayer Protection Act

House Energy and Power Subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) said he expects the House will pass legislation that reigns in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which would likely increase electricity rates in many parts of the country.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted in favor of the Ratepayer Protection Act on Wednesday, bipartisan legislation introduced by Whitfield and other lawmakers, that would require judicial review of the EPA rule to be completed before states must comply. It also would ensure that states would not be forced to implement a plan if governors find it would negatively impact electricity rates or the reliability of the electrical system.

“There’s no assurance that the reliability will be there, but there is assurance that the electricity rates are going to go up,” Whitfield said in an interview with the Ripon Advance.

The EPA proposed a plan last year to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. The plan would be implemented through a state-federal partnership where states would use either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the program. States would need to submit their plans to the agency by June 2016, but would have the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. The EPA is expected to finalize its standards in June.

“This is more than about regulation of CO2,” Whitfield said. “This is a method by which EPA is taking control of the electric generating system in America because they are setting specific state by state emission caps of CO2, and they are then giving states only 13 months to come up with a state implementation plan.”

Many state attorney generals are suing the EPA to block the implementation of the rule.

“We’re simply saying, look, this is so unprecedented, so convoluted, so many questions about the constitutionality about it, let’s delay the states’ implementation plan until after the courts have rendered a final decision,” Whitfield said.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp., which has responsibility for ensuring the reliability of the nation’s power system, has said the industry needs more time to develop coordinated plans to address shifts in generation and transmission reinforcements in order to meet the EPA’s CO2 emissions targets. It also cited potential reliability risks resulting from the Clean Power Plan.

Estimates have shown that electricity rates under the Clean Power Plan would rise by an average of 15 percent in a majority of states. Supporters of the Ratepayer Protection Act say the cost increases will hit low-income families the hardest, and could lead to fewer jobs and lower wages.

Whitfield said the bill he supports was not trying to repeal the Clean Power Plan, but that it would give states that are adversely impacted by the EPA’s plan additional time.

 “They don’t have to submit this implementation plan and can work with the EPA in other ways to address the problem,” Whitfield said.

While Whitfield said that climate change is a well-known problem, he said he does not believe it is the most important issue, particularly for developing nations. The U.S. government is already spending approximately $25 billion a year to fight climate change, he said.

“Our CO2 emissions today are lower than they have been in the last 20 years,” Whitfield said. He added that President Obama has made it his mission to show that the United States has made more of a commitment to address climate change than any other country.

“We don’t have to take a backseat to anyone, but I don’t think that we should take this kind of drastic action just to fulfill the legacy of one man in the White House,” Whitfield said.