In the last 24 hours, Republicans have argued the Environmental Protection Agency is worse than a terrorist militia and that carbon pollution causes no harm. By comparison, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) claim that what the EPA is doing is “illegal” may seem relatively tame. The problem is that it’s completely untrue.
“The Democrats tried to pass [cap and trade] and they didn’t have enough votes so now they’re going to try to do this through executive edict, and I don’t think that’s legal,” Paul argued on Fox News Tuesday afternoon. “I think if you want to pass legislation, try to get it through Congress. Come and talk to us. Convince us it’s a good idea.”
But the truth is that Congress directed the EPA to tackle air pollution, including carbon, and that authority has been upheld twice by the Supreme Court. Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to develop regulations for “air pollution which may endanger public health or welfare.” In 2007 and again in 2011, the Supreme Court said carbon pollution fits under that category. The 2007 landmark ruling found that “greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of air pollutant.”
Paul also predicted the rule will turn the lights out and cut off heat, when, in fact, it allows states to implement their own plan to reach their targets for 2030.
“If it comes to the hot August day and you have no air conditioning you can blame the president,” Paul said. “It becomes a really cold day in January, and there’s not enough heat, you can blame the president. 40 percent of the electricity in the country comes from coal and we’re dramatically shutting it down. Not gradually. We’re dramatically shutting it down. Thousands of people out of work in my state, but ultimately I worry whether the country will have enough electricity.”
Utility officials are not concerned that the lights will go out. In fact, many think the targets are attainable. Because of the rule’s flexibility, the states with the most reliance on coal-fired power plants have lower emissions targets. For Kentucky, that’s a 18 percent cut compared to its 2012 emissions. New York, for comparison, has a 44 percent target.