This commentary originally appeared in the Washington Examiner on June 22, 2015.
One of the few beliefs liberals and conservatives rally around is that government power should not harm the powerless.
This is simply not the case under the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan. The results of a recent poll show Americans are finally starting to understand the consequences of this flawed, expensive and unconstitutional (at least according to Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe) plan.
In exchange for the thinnest of prospective environmental gains measured at some point in the future, the EPA proposes effectively to take over the electric power generating system in every state, forcing the shutdown of plants and the firing of thousands of hardworking Americans. It will also raise the cost of electricity on every business and family.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation conducted a poll across Texas finding that the only groups that support the EPA's plan and the higher electricity rates that it would create are white, urban/suburban liberals, and those with incomes exceeding $125,000, twice the U.S. median income.
In contrast, a meaningful margin of lower income individuals over age 55, African Americans and women of all races oppose the Clean Power Plan if it means increases in electricity rates. They understand that the Clean Power Plan hits the most vulnerable Americans the hardest.
When the cost of electric generation increases, so do consumers' rates. Experts predict residential electric bills will increase by 48 percent and natural gas bills will go up by 75 percent. On this point, support for the Clean Power Plan breaks along racial and socioeconomic lines. To someone on a fixed income or someone making minimum wage, an extra $50 – $100 on their monthly bill means choosing whether to buy groceries or keep the lights turned on.
The EPA's proposed rule seeks to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing sources by forcing the closure of coal-fired electric generating units and increasing the reliance on renewables and natural gas. The agency says the rule would decrease global temperatures by only 0.02 degrees Celsius, and admits it will cost hundreds of billions of dollars in compliance costs. By forcing fuel switching, the rule will all but guarantee brownouts during peak usage times — the hottest parts of the summer, the coldest parts of winter.
Liberals and conservatives should agree that it is wrong to make the poor, the elderly and the unemployed suffer for a scientifically negligible change in global temperature, at best.
Overwhelmingly, and notably even among liberals, the poll results show that Texans believe the state should take the lead in securing environmental quality. Nearly half (48 percent) are distrustful of the federal government and its effectiveness in regulating for a clean environment. In addition, 57 percent of Texans think the state's regulations do benefit the environment. Overall, 60 percent of women trust the state government more, and for younger women that number is 57 percent.
African Americans and women, President Obama's most loyal supporters, trust the states to regulate the environment by 57 and 60 percent respectively, and only trust federal government regulation by 23 and 21 percent. By a wide margin (60 percent to 24 percent), Hispanics agree that the state, not the federal government, should take the lead in environmental protection.
Lest you dismiss these results as "just Texas being Texas," Gallup's most recent national survey showed that 62 percent of Americans answered "no" when asked, "Do you think that global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime?" And a Pew Research poll of "Top Policy Priorities" ranked "dealing with global warming" near the bottom (19th of 20 issues).
In this case, if you are low income, a woman, a senior citizen or an African American, the EPA's cure is worse than the disease.
The Honorable Doug Domenech is director of the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Domenech most recently served as secretary of natural resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia and served as deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of the Interior.