This week, the National Journal asked its panel of energy and environment experts to weigh in on an important question: Do the results of the 2012 election pave the way for Washington to achieve bipartisan energy and environment policy? PACE Executive Director Lance Brown offered this response, entitled “On Energy, Bring All Voices to the Table.”
Some claim that Benjamin Franklin once described democracy as “two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner.” Key questions headed into the coming years, with a second-term president and a majority of his party in the Senate, is how large will be the administration’s appetite be for making major changes to American energy? And will there be meaningful compromise between the Administration and Congress?
It is plain to see that many of the EPA’s current and proposed policies could benefit from more partisan compromise. Among these are the landmark Utility MACT rule and new rules governing greenhouse gases. But looking beyond specific rulemaking in the pipeline, it is incumbent upon lawmakers to take a broader and more active role in helping to shape American energy policy. If not, EPA will do so in their stead. By having an active and constructive dialogue among the nation’s elected representatives, as opposed to de facto policy making by an unelected agency, we have the real possibility of uniting our nation behind shared goals rather than picking which parts of the energy sector are on this week’s menu.
A bipartisan effort must be initiated by the Administration, since they are in the driver’s seat and have the political platform to set the general tone and direction of American energy policy. The president should reach out to key members of Congress and to stakeholders to determine what opportunities exist to make American energy more robust and to maintain reliability and affordability. The administration should also listen to voices with legitimate grievances about EPA regulation that threaten to weaken our national position and saddle American families and industry with higher costs. By taking this kind of approach, the administration can avoid mistakes such as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that was struck down by the courts because it exceeded EPA’s authority.
CSAPR is a regulation requiring power plants in 27 states to reduce emissions, but it hurt certain states more than others. Texas Governor Rick Perry called the regulation a “highly flawed, job-killing rule that was based on inaccurate and incomplete information.” While the EPA consistently refuted any criticism of the rule, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with Governor Perry’s assessment. In fact, CSAPR was such a clear sign of dramatic EPA overreach that the Court struck down the rule in August- marking the 15th time a federal court has struck down an Obama Administration regulation. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal even stated that the ruling “underscores how much more damaging the EPA could be without re-election restraint in a second Obama term.”
If we are to bridge the partisan divide on energy issues in Washington, DC, President Obama’s Administration and Congress must each do their part to compromise. We must look past politically popular ideas and focus once again on what is truly going to power our nation’s progress decades into the future. Americans of all political persuasions are hungry for energy solutions that work for us all. Let’s invite consumers and their representatives to the table instead of eating them for dinner.