West Virginia’s top law enforcement official warned the White House on Friday it would face strenuous legal challenges if it tried to push its climate change agenda solely through executive actions.
Patrick Morrisey, the state’s Republican attorney general, said President Biden’s “radical” proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% through 2030 required a large-scale expansion of the federal government’s powers.
“Our Constitution recognizes the risk of the overreaching federal executive, which is why top-down federal regulation requires the agreement of Congress,” Mr. Morrisey said. “Without Congress, which has not voted on this promise and will hopefully give this new radical climate action plan the same reception it gave the Green New Deal, Biden will have to either give up or try and go it alone.”
“There is no [legal] authority for any federal agency to make the kind of transformative changes to the entire economy that would be required to meet this commitment,” the attorney general said.
The remarks come after Mr. Biden convened an international White House summit on the climate earlier this week. At the event, the president pledged to cut carbon emissions by 50-to-52% below 2005 levels over the next decade.
Mr. Biden’s proposal is significantly more ambitious than that offered by former President Barack Obama in 2015. At the time, Mr. Obama proposed to curb emissions by at least 26% by 2025.
The White House argues a more aggressive climate change goal is needed because former President Donald Trump’s energy policies and decision to shun the Paris Climate Accord set the U.S. back.
“The United States isn’t waiting — we are resolving to take action,” Mr. Biden said.
Despite the president’s promise, there is uncertainty in the nation’s capital as to how the U.S. will reach the emissions target.
The White House points to its $2.25 trillion infrastructure package as the first step toward the goal.
Mr. Biden’s plan seeks $174 billion to hasten the transition away from gas-powered cars by proposing to build 500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations across the country.
Senior administration officials say the phase-out of gas-powered vehicles will go a long way toward reducing emissions by more than 50% over the next decade, as well as reaching the Paris Climate Accord’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
“President Biden is demanding that we get America to net-zero [emissions] by 2050,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “The transportation sector is the largest source of those emissions.”
The administration’s infrastructure package also includes funding to help reach a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. Democrats claim that decarbonizing the electric grid, which accounts for 30% of all U.S. carbon emissions, will make significant progress towards combating climate change.
A clean electricity standard would adversely impact the coal and natural gas industries. The Energy Information Association notes that coal and natural gas produce around 63 percent of all electricity consumed in the U.S.
Given that reality, Republicans do not believe the White House is being upfront about how it plans to accomplish its goals, or the costs associated.
“President Biden is unilaterally committing America to a drastic and damaging emissions pledge,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican and ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee. “The last thing the economy needs is higher energy prices and fewer jobs, but that’s exactly what we’re going to get.”
Mr. Morrisey went a step further, arguing the administration is not being honest about the heavy regulations needed to reach even a portion of its goals.
“It is essential that everyone understand just how far Biden’s promise reaches across every aspect of our lives, and how it will do so quickly,” he said. “It stands to remake American life through federal dictates.”
This week, the West Virginia attorney general’s office joined nine other states in suing Mr. Biden for issuing an executive order requiring federal agencies to calculate the social cost of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide when enacting regulations.
Mr. Morrisey also plans to petition the Supreme Court to review the legal standing of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which is seen as a blueprint for the federal regulations Mr. Biden may choose to wield in combating climate change.
“Our environment is important and we can all agree that we have to protect it,” Mr. Morrisey said. “But a President deciding that we need to take steps to address climate change does not mean that we ought to do so at any cost, by any means, at any pace.”
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