EDITORIAL: Stop 'irreparable harm'

By: The Gazette editorial
February 14, 2016 Updated: February 14, 2016 at 4:20 am

The Supreme Court of the United States says President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan could do "irreparable harm" to Colorado and other states. By a 5-4 vote last week, the court issued a stay that allows state governments to stop making plans to implement the proposed federal mandates. With the decision, justices also determined they were likely to declare the plan illegal when they rule on a complaint filed by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and 26 other state attorneys general.

Even with Saturday's death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court likely will strike the plan if voters elect a Republican president.

Incredibly, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment plan to move ahead with costly implementation of a Clean Power Plan compliance program. Never mind, for now, all that talk about state government having no money for roads and other basic needs.

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, plans to intervene with a bill that would stop the state's planning until the court lifts its stay and/or rules on the lawsuit. Cooke's bill would, at the very least, force public discussion about state government's pursuit of regulations that would hurt the poor and likely break the law.

The plan's harm would include massive new expenses for ratepayers, forced to scrap electric assets and pay for new "clean power" replacements. The plan would replace coal-fired electric plants with solar arrays and wind turbines. The harm could include annual utility rate hikes totaling hundreds for average households and thousands for businesses and farms. The costs could devastate agriculture, marginal businesses and low-income families.

"The Clean Power Plan will lead to lost jobs, lower incomes and higher poverty rates for the 128 million blacks and Hispanics living in America," said Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. "With blacks and Hispanics spending a larger share of their income on energy than whites, the burden of higher costs will fall hardest on minorities. We will be hurt again through job losses, as businesses take steps to mitigate the damage of higher overhead."

To devise a compliance strategy, the Department of Public Health and Environment stages "all stakeholder" meetings throughout Colorado. Meetings feature a panel of experts who almost all support the plan. Most work for industries that would financially benefit from the Obama/Hickenlooper mandates. High school students are bused in from a Boulder environmental club to defend the president's plan.

The students, from a mostly white community with median household incomes exceeding $70,000, said global warming poses the greatest burden to the poor.

Even if that were true, the Environmental Protection Agency concedes the Obama plan would not reduce CO2. In the words of the EPA's Clean Power Plan proposal: "The EPA does not anticipate that this proposed rule (the Clean Power Plan) will result in notable CO2 emission changes."

Minorities and low-income heads of household seem more concerned about soaring utility bills than anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. When the CDPHE and Boulder activists showed up for an "all stakeholder" rally in Brush - a rural eastern plains community - they received pushback from politicians, rural electric cooperative employees and business owners. Unlike in Boulder, minorities make up more than 25 percent of Brush. The median household income barely exceeds $30,000 - considerably less than half the typical income in Boulder.

Aside from the staged "all stakeholder" meetings, the Clean Power Plan has little support. A Magellan Strategies survey found nearly 60 percent opposition among Coloradans if the plan raises utility rates. The survey found a majority believe federal environmental regulations do more harm than good to Colorado's environment.

The Colorado Senate should pass a bill to stop state authorities from pursuing the Hickenlooper/Obama agenda. The bill should also end state-sponsored propaganda, setting criteria that ensure a fair and balanced process when state agencies impanel experts for public information hearings. Legislators, represent the people. Join the court and try stopping this irrational march toward "irreparable harm."

the gazette

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