Beacon CEO Justin Owen Testifies Against EPA Rules

December 19, 2014 10:37AM

This testimony was provided by Beacon CEO Justin Owen before the Joint Government Operations Committee of the Tennessee General Assembly concerning pending Environmental Protection Agency rules. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and for your leadership on this important issue. As Tennessee’s leading free market policy organization, Beacon vehemently opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to apply senseless, burdensome new regulations across the country. Our first concern is that these proposed rules shun the principles of federalism in favor of a top-down, one-size-fits-all attempt to impose the Obama administration’s environmental agenda on the 50 states. These federal rules ignore the different and unique energy portfolios, needs, and problems faced by each state. For example, because Tennessee relies more heavily on electricity generated from coal fired plants, our state’s citizens would be burdened more severely than others. Our second concern is that these rules disregard the real human consequences of their enactment. Real Tennesseans will indeed be harmed financially—and substantially so—by the imposition of these rules. As you have heard, various factors make this difficult to quantify. But some have tried. A forthcoming study from Suffolk University suggests that the CO2 emissions rule on new power plants could cost Tennessee $208 million; the rule for existing plants could cost $394 million; and the mercury emissions rule $727 million. That’s a grand total of more than $1.3 billion dollars in Tennessee for this one rule alone. In its crusade to halt emissions, the EPA will cause Tennesseans’ electricity prices to rise substantially. Imagine a family of four with a $125 per month electricity bill, which is right at the average for a Tennessee household. That family would have to cough up nearly $400 more per year to pay for the EPA rules given some estimates. With just over a week left until Christmas, I can’t help but think this is about what most families spend on gifts each year. But it could get even worse. The Suffolk University research suggests that Tennessee could lose 28,980 jobs by 2030 as a result of the rules. Forget putting Christmas gifts under the tree, that’s nearly 30,000 Tennesseans who would no longer even be able to put food on the table. For those fortunate enough to keep their jobs, their take home pay would be much less. Some estimates indicate that disposable income for those remaining employed would fall by a total of $3 billion per year by 2030. That’s a pay cut of more than $1,150 per Tennessee household. It should therefore come as no surprise to committee members that your constituents stand with us in opposition to these regulations. A recent poll shows that a majority of Tennesseans opposes the proposed EPA rules because of their negative economic impact. Nearly half say that they would not pay one single dollar more to advance the EPA’s agenda. Sadly, they will be paying much, much more in higher electricity bills, lower income, and for some, even joblessness. This is not to say that we should ignore the environment in which we live. Indeed, as you have heard, Tennessee power producers have been instituting measures to reduce CO2 emissions prior to the latest EPA rule changes. And they have done so without coercion from the federal government and in a responsible approach that respects both environmental concerns and the livelihoods of Tennesseans. There are many free market things we can do to address environmental issues in a way that does not irreparably harm Tennessee’s economy or trample on our property rights. But before we can discuss deeper free market reforms that would lead us to become better stewards of our environment, we must stop these ill-advised and destructive rules. I urge you to implore the Attorney General to stand in opposition to the rules and do everything under his power to stop the EPA’s actions in Tennessee. If the Attorney General chooses not to act, then it is incumbent upon you as our state legislators to seek ways to push back against the EPA. That might include the appointment of special counsel to protect and defend our state’s sovereignty and our citizen’s pocketbooks. It’s not enough to speak out against these rules. You must do everything in your power to stop them. The buck stops with you. This is important not only for our economy, but also for the principles of federalism upon which this nation was founded. The EPA’s action is just another example of government overreach by Washington bureaucrats that erodes the sovereignty of our state and our citizen’s ability to take care of themselves. Tennesseans are depending on you to go to bat for them. I hope you will answer their call. Again, thank you for your commitment to this issue, and thank you for your service to the people of Tennessee.