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Opinion Pieces

OP-ED: Executive Action Won’t Strengthen Our Energy Sector; Private Sector Innovation Will

Washington, March 18, 2016 | George OConnor (202-225-5836)
I’m deeply disturbed that the President continues to show no restraint as he incessantly uses executive action to pursue his legacy-driven agenda. He’s proven time and time again that he has no problem circumventing Congress and working unilaterally to achieve his policy priorities. We’ve seen him go it alone on immigration, gun control, the Iran Nuclear Deal and actions to close Guantanamo Bay. Thankfully, the courts rightly have questioned the constitutionality of these actions and held up his actions on immigration, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, and the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule, which countless local businesses told me will destroy jobs. These legal developments hardly have slowed the President’s unilateral actions as he now looks to utilize an obscure provision of the Clean Air Act to significantly expand the EPA’s regulatory authority over the energy sector.

Earlier this year, I introduced the Energy Sovereignty Act (H.R. 4544) to prevent any attempt by the President to give the EPA the ability to bypass Congress and give itself jurisdiction over every state’s energy sector. Using the U.N. Paris Climate Agreement, the Obama Administration could invoke a provision of the Clean Air Act, Section 115, to mandate that every U.S. state cut its emissions by an amount determined solely by the EPA. My legislation would prevent the EPA from expanding its regulatory authority over the energy sector by repealing section 115. Removing this broadly written, authorizing language is the most straightforward way to prevent economic harm that certainly would result from executive overreach.

We all want clean air and a healthy environment, but we can achieve it without more massive, executive overreach. For example, our greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since 2007; the main driver of this decline wasn’t government intervention, but rather private sector innovation that allowed for significant increases in natural gas production and other new technologies. In addition, I’ve advocated for removing government barriers to the development of hydropower, which would create thousands of American jobs and provide power to millions of Americans at low cost. These are only parts of the solution, but much better than any attempt to delegate nearly unlimited power over America’s energy sector to the unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats at the EPA. Such expansive authority of the EPA would be economically devastating and threatens the reliability and viability of our Nation’s energy sector.

Unilateral action leads to ill-conceived polices, as it avoids the scrutiny and deliberation built into the constitutional lawmaking process. I’ll continue the fight against the unilateral implementation of top-down regulations that are economically harmful to an industry upon which every American relies. Instead, we must unleash our entrepreneurial spirit to discover innovative solutions to our Nation’s challenges.
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