A subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee recently held a hearing on proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that will likely reduce the nation’s electricity output from coal-fired power plants by 25 percent. Astonishingly, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had not performed an analysis on the implications of the proposed EPA rules on electric reliability, nor do they intend to perform an analysis in the future. There was, however, division among the five commissioners who testified regarding the need to perform an analysis. The three Democratic commissioners, including the chairman, saw no need to do a reliability study, while the two Republican commissioners dissented.
Apparently the majority of FERC commissioners have decided that the nation’s electric reliability is less important than shutting down coal-fired power plants in an effort to combat climate alarmism. The inevitable outcome of FERC’s decision to not delay EPA rules on coal-fired power plants, regardless of the impact on reliability, is to force many of the nation’s utilities to enter into consent decrees in order to prevent blackouts. EPA-mandated consent decrees that would allow coal-fired power plants to remain in operation until they can be replaced would effectively give control to the agency on how those power plants can be operated. Such decrees are also friendly to intervention by outside parties such as environmental groups.
Congress should demand that EPA rules that could shutdown a quarter of the nation’s electricity generation be suspended until FERC conducts a comprehensive reliability study. The balance of power between branches of the federal government is in serious jeopardy if Congress does not forcefully move to stop an Executive Branch administrative state that is clearly out of control. No matter how much power the Executive Branch believes it has, the fact remains that Congress controls the purse strings. If FERC does not see the nation’s electricity reliability as important, one has to question why the agency deserves taxpayer support.