From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, R-VA-9:
A Tale of Two Cities: Washington, D.C. and Bristol, VA
In his great novel about the French Revolution, 19th century author Charles Dickens writes of the horrors taking place in Paris, France, and the relative calm in London, England. On Monday, August 3, we saw a less violent but still troubling scenario that calls to mind Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
In Washington, D.C., the Obama Administration announced it is finalizing its Clean Power Plan, which I have written about numerous times. As part of this plan, states must come up with and implement a plan to reduce their carbon footprint. Most agree this means states will have to reduce the amount of energy generated in their state by coal.
Meanwhile, in Bristol, Virginia, Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. – one of the nation’s largest coal producers – announced it is voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to restructure as a result of regulatory and market challenges which have impacted pricing and demand.
This is happening not only in Bristol, but throughout the coalfields of central Appalachia. According to the Associated Press, Alpha is the fourth big coal company in 15 months to file for bankruptcy.
I believe government bureaucrats have decided that they do not like the coal industry, and accordingly are going to try to regulate it out of business.
“Let them eat cake,” Marie-Antoinette supposedly said upon learning that her subjects did not have bread to eat. I don’t have to strain my imagination to envision Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bureaucrats sitting in their D.C. ivory towers, insisting even despite Americans’ lack of “bread” (jobs, affordable and reliable energy, etc.) that everything is fine, and that they will help coal communities transition and find a path forward. I can hear them scoff, “They don’t need that much heat.”
Though it goes without saying, I am hopeful Alpha will emerge on the other side stronger and with a fresh start. But wouldn’t it be nice if the Obama Administration were to stop trying to put Alpha and companies like it out of business?
When released last summer, the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan required that carbon emissions from the power sector be slashed 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Its revised plan released this week will increase those cuts to 32 percent.
Additionally, the original Clean Power Plan proposal was estimated by NERA Economic Consulting to have annual compliance costs averaging $41 billion to $73 billion. Because this final rule is tougher than the original rule, I would expect costs will increase.
Where do we go from here?
I am hopeful that in the future, we will have an Administration that thinks differently and understands the value of coal. Additionally, I will be closely following the many lawsuits involving the Clean Power Plan, particularly the suit being led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
But in the interim, Congress ought to act. Rather than the violence of the French Revolution, we need the Regulations From the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 427).
The REINS Act would require Congress to take an up-or-down vote on “major rules” (those rules that have an annual economic impact of $100 million or more) within 70 legislative days, essentially guaranteeing major regulations would not become effective until approved by Congress. According to an analysis from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, President Obama issued an average of 81 major, impactful regulations in each of his first five years in office.
Because Congress for decades has ceded its constitutional responsibility of making the law of the land to the Executive Branch, these rules are not subject to review by the elected representatives of the American people.
Last week, I joined 242 of my colleagues in voting in favor of the REINS Act. If it were already in effect, I would expect that the regulations whose harmful effects we are feeling in Appalachia would have been slowed down, ideally even giving the courts adequate time to determine if contested regulations are Constitutional, legal, and reasonable.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced similar legislation (S.226). I encourage the Senators to pass this important bill.
With the REINS Act, perhaps the people’s elected representatives will be able to keep the D.C. ivory tower bureaucrats from being removed from the consequences their decisions have on people living in Bristol and in cities and towns across the United States.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Editorial comment: I like it. "We" at this web site does reflect a "we," whose feelings about the CPP are mixed. About the idea that the White House needs REINS I believe we have a solid consensus.