Monday, December 22, 2014

How the Metro Council voted in supporting President Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan.

In the Metro Council meeting of December 2, the Council passed RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1300  sponsored by Council Member Peter Westerholm which expressed the will of the Council in supporting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supporting President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

Here is the way the Council voted:
“Ayes.” Barry, Steine, Maynard, Harrison, Hunt, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Pridemore, Stanley, Moore, Allen, Gilmore, Baker, Langster, Holleman, McGuire, Harmon, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Todd, Mitchell (24).

“Noes.” Garrett, Tygard, Bennett, Hagar, Glover, Stites, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Weiner, Blalock, Dominy, Duvall (12),

“Abstaining.” Evans, Johnson (2).

While the Council passed the resolution, I am delighted that 12 members voted against it. All of the Council members who I think of as the "good" councilmen, because they have in the past had a conservative voting record or identify as Republicans or just seem like rational, reasonable people voted against the bill with the exception of Carter Todd who is identified as a Republican but who voted for it. Emily Evans who I think of as one of the "good" council members voted to abstain.

I was also very pleased to see Karen Johnson vote to abstain. I personally like Karen Johnson a lot, but she does not self identify as a Republican or conservative, but I am proud of her for voting to abstain on this bill rather than voting for it.

In the past the Council has unanimously voted for some atrociously bad bills similar to this. A special recognition goes to Josh Stites who is on the Rules Committee. All memorizing resolutions go before this committee and Josh was the lone "no" vote in committee. If not for his "no" vote, this resolution would have been on the "consent" agenda and may have passed without descent or discussion. Also Council Member Duane Dominy deserves special recognition for his argument against the resolution on the floor of the Council.

Recently the State Senate Government Operation Committee took a look at the same EPA action that the Council voted to support and heard testimony from leading state and industry officials regarding this EPA rule. Of this EPA policy, Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell had this to say:

The testimony we heard Tuesday makes it very clear that the rules proposed by the EPA not only overstep their jurisdiction, but if enacted will cost Tennesseans greatly in terms of higher electric bills, job loss and productivity. The founding fathers never intended for the federal government to be preeminent in every facet of our daily lives. These rules go far beyond their constitutional authority, stripping the state of its authority in this regard and encroaching on the personal liberties of our citizens.

Tennessee Commissioner of Environment and Conservation Bob Martineau briefed Committee members on 97 pages of comments that the state made in response to the Clean Air Act rule. He said the state requested that the carbon emission reduction targets set by the EPA for Tennessee be “reduced and adjusted.” Several presenters at the meeting called the targets “unattainable.” They also said the proposed rules punish states, like Tennessee, which made early efforts to reduce carbon emissions prior to the 2012 benchmark used in calculating state-based reduction targets.

Paul Bailey of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy said their studies project an average annual increase in retail electricity prices of 14% to 18% over the next decade.

Justin Owen, President and CEO of the Beacon Center, told committee members, “These federal rules ignore the different and unique energy portfolios, needs and problems faced by each individual state. For example, because Tennessee relies more heavily on electricity generated by coal-fired plants, our state citizens will be burdened more severely than those in other states.”

Owen said a Suffolk University study shows that emission rules on new power plants could cost upwards of $208 million in Tennessee. The rule for existing plants could cost $394 million according to the study, while the mercury emissions rule could cost $727 million, for a total of more than $1.3 billion. 

While the State Senate held hearings on the issue, our Metro Council voted for the new EPA rules without any studies or hearings being done or any insight as to what the new rules would cost Tennesseans.  These issues are complicated and in my view the Council should recognize they are Councilmen and not U.S. representatives and should avoid putting the Council on record about things of which they have little knowledge

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