Practical Environmentalism in the Noisy World of Energy

Posted on December 19, 2014
Posted By: Stephen Heins

The world of energy has entered a new phase, while reasserting its place in the world headlines--oil, pipelines, OPEC, fracking, gasoline prices, peak oil, tar sands and natural gas to mention the most overly discussed.

In the meantime, another important Wisconsin and American energy story--electricity for the present and future of America and its electrical grid--has been pushed to the back page of the news. All but lost, in a newly updated (November 26, 2014) EPA 111d proposal, is the fact that essentially puts national energy and environmental policy in the hands of the EPA.

This is surely an historical mistake, especially now that we have two contradictory legal clocks ticking at the same time: (1) The enforcement of the new EPA environmental rulings of 2014 called 111d which the EPA will begin implementing in June, 2015; and (2) the Supreme Court who will be deciding whether the EPA has the constitutional right to enforce the 111d ruling it has formulated without any state or national mandate by June 2015.

Just about the time EPA will begin implementing its new ruling in June, 2015, the Supreme Court will likely make its ruling of constitutionality of the EPA's 111 d in June, 2015. This is particularly important now that Professor Laurence Tribe-professor of constitutional law Harvard University--has filed a 36-page refutation of the EPA's constitutional right to make new rules. As Professor Tribe puts it, "It is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency's assertion of power beyond its statutory authority."

As a backdrop, here is the history of utility regulation in the US:

  • - First, as for legal precedent, the states have been legally responsible for providing reliable and environmentally safe electricity to their states through Public Utility Commissions and regulated power plants for the last 125 years. It remains the same to this day, without exception.

  • - Secondly, the 50 separate Public Utility Commissions (and their National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) have been responsible for working with state governments, power plant operators, business community, state environmental groups, consumer groups and transmission companies to provide the electricity to power the largest economy in the world. For example, 47 states have demand-side energy efficiency projects, all with measurable results, 38 states have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), 10 states have voluntary market-based Green House Gas (GHG) emission trading programs and numerous large individual companies and Publicly Traded Utility Companies have been pursuing voluntary emission reduction strategies.

  • - Thirdly, on the national environmental front, the reduction of methane emission has been 16.9 percent since 1990, according to the EPA and the carbon emissions levels has fallen to the lowest level per capita since 1961, and overall reductions of 12.9 percent in the last 5 years. And as for "global warming," there has been no measurable increase in temperature over the last 15 years or so.

Further complicating matters, are the following:

  • - The 21st Century media has becomes quite divided and partisan in its reporting of energy and/or environmental issues. While the new EPA ruling would shutter approximately 100 of the existing 500 coal burning power plants in 30 states, there are 1200 500-Megawatt power plants under construction or planned in the rest of the world including China, India, Germany, Japan etc.

  • - Impartial studies and reliable statistics are much, much harder to find, and predicting the world's future is impossible, which makes the most recent International Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC) of November 2014, worrisome because it is predicting 85 years into the future, while not even addressing the "pause" in global warming over the 15 last years.

  • - Also, the newly updated (November 26, 2014) EPA proposal of 626 pages, plus 575 page appendix, includes EPA's projected health benefits hypothesizes that EPA's plan will prevent 2,000 to 6,600 premature deaths, 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, 2,700 to 2,000 hospital admissions and 470,000 to 490,000 missed school and work days, which is simply scientific conjecture.

While it can easily be said that the current divisions of labor and legal responsibility in Wisconsin and all other States, State Legislatures and their Public Utility Commissions have created the most efficient mechanism for electricity in the world, from which the U.S. can continue to pursue economic development, energy independence and environmental safety. We are still the marvel of the capital formation and entrepreneurial universe. All without federal regulatory mandates.

If and only if the EPA's 111d is ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court, may I make a modest proposal? The EPA should postpone their implementation of 111d for another year until at least June 2016 or more properly until after the Presidential election of 2016, so that the entire reliable electricity communities including power plants, transmission companies, state regulators, investors, state and federal legislatures can properly do their duties.

Authored By:
Stephen Heins, aka “The Blizzard of One,” is an energy consultant and nationally-published writer who has gained some attention for his expertise in energy, federal regulations, environmental and broadband policy issues.Heins promotes economic development, energy efficiency and emission reductions at the local, state and national levels. He has published more than 70 articles and op-ed pieces on energy, energy policy, utility industry and environmental issues for newspapers, energy and trade

Other Posts by: Stephen Heins

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December, 22 2014

Michael Keller says

I'd say it is extremely unlikely that the EPA will employ commonsense and reason, as such traits are an anathema for the leftest ideologues running the EPA and Executive Branch,

January, 05 2015

Richard Vesel says

" And as for "global warming," there has been no measurable increase in temperature over the last 15 years or so."

A patently FALSE statement, tossed in as part of this very biased opinion.

Additionally: - The Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of CO2 management by the EPA, back in 2007, and reaffirmed in another SCOTUS case in the middle of this year. - There is no reason to wait for one party or the other to occupy either Congress or the White House. The EPA is apolitical, entrusted with protection of all individuals, whether or not they subscribe to the necessity of environmental protections. Please remember it was a pro-business Republican who started it up in the first place - Nixon, Dec 1970. - The Supreme Court may require the EPA to revamp their rules to meet the current interpretation of "constitutionality". However, in deference to the states and states-rights advocates, the EPA has outlined rules which leave the structure and manner of compliance completely up to the states, just so long as they meet the required goals. - Why is/was there no "constitutional uproar" over the EPA CAFE standards, setting vehicle fleet efficiency standards up through 2025? Perhaps because a responsible Congress first passed the initial CAFE standards back in the mid-70's, again under a REPUBLICAN president...

Waiting a year for legitimate reasons, i.e. to "get it right", as opposed to hoping for political elimination, would be acceptable, but further delays will simply provide time for the business-as-usual faction to pound nails in much of humanity's coffins.


January, 08 2015

Stephen. Heins says


There several different news outlets that have cove the hiatus story. What you call biased, I call myself the loyal opposition to your perspective.


January, 08 2015

Stephen. Heins says

BBC News - Global warming slowdown 'could last another decade'

For the record, I do extensive research before I write, so your comment about being "patently false" is a little hard to swallow.

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