… AND A PREVIEW OF THE 2018 “REPUBLICAN” GUBERNATORIAL RACE
|| By FITSNEWS || South Carolina scored a major victory earlier this month when U.S. president Barack Obama‘s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to amend the formula underlying its latest “climate change” emissions rules.
Missed that story? Of course you did. Hardly anyone covered it … because it isn’t even remotely sexy.
Unlike the barrage of media attention following from high-profile lawsuits – such as those routinely filed against the EPA by S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – negotiations over rule changes get precisely zero ink. Even if they succeed in accomplishing more than any lawsuit ever could, no one cares.
As much as the voters (and the media) like to talk about “getting things done,” the truth is conflict – even fabricated conflict – drives traffic.
But the “battle” to free the Palmetto State from a particularly onerous offshoot of Obama’s rogue bureaucracy – one currently mired in a huge national scandal – could wind up attracting plenty of eyeballs down the road.
Why? Because it showcases the dueling approaches of two of the top tier contenders for governor of South Carolina in 2018 – Wilson and former S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) director Catherine Templeton.
Wilson – unable or unwilling to follow through on his anti-corruption initiatives here at home – has drawn a bullseye on the Obama administration in recent weeks.
That’s politically astute … especially as it relates to battles with the EPA.
But while Wilson was photo bombing news cycles, Templeton was working behind the scenes – pushing the EPA to change its rule.
At issue? The EPA’s efforts to regulate emissions via a section of the 1990 Clean Air Act. Under the agency’s original rule, each state was required to lower carbon emissions by a certain rate – one determined by a state-specific formula.
South Carolina’s reduction rate was one of the highest in the nation – “virtually unattainable,” in the words of one industry expert.
In the proposed rule equation, EPA regulators – hoping to balance a “national ledger” of electrical power generation – refused to acknowledge South Carolina’s investment in building additional nuclear power. But they also refused to credit the state with emission reductions that will take place when new nuclear facilities come on line.
In other words, the Palmetto State wasn’t receiving any credit from Washington, D.C. for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear power facilities that will dramatically reduce carbon emissions in the state – thus doing more than the state’s fair share to balance the EPA’s national ledger.
“We were being penalized for reducing emissions,” Templeton said. “South Carolina’s energy policies were cutting carbon and they were trying to penalize us for it.”
So Templeton got on the phone with the EPA – beginning a dialogue with one of the agency’s senior administrators. Over a period of several weeks, she made her case against the inequity of the rule and the impossibility of the state complying with it – while at the same time touting South Carolina’s shift away from coal as being beneficial to the EPA’s “national ledger.”
Initially, the agency refused to budge.
“She held the line so hard and refused to give on anything,” Templeton recalled. “I thought we were sunk.”
But Templeton kept at it. At one point, she flew to Sante Fe, New Mexico and met with the administrator in a hotel gym – pressing the state’s case in no uncertain terms.
“We chewed on her pretty good,” she said. “I pointed out to her that their rule didn’t make sense environmentally or economically. And I proposed a solution that she could accept.”
Templeton also played hardball, pointing out the state could easily play the agency’s “form over substance” game by halting its nuclear power generation plans.
Ultimately, the EPA saw the light and changed its rule – awarding credit to South Carolina (and other states) for their projected emissions reductions.
“Common sense prevailed,” Templeton said, noting the rule change will help suppress energy costs for Palmetto consumers.
To be clear: We explicitly reject the EPA’s authority under this rule, just as we reject its attempted “dominion over every puddle” under the auspices of the Clean Water Act. Also, while Wilson’s lawsuit in this case was unlikely to prevail, we support him in his efforts to join with other attorneys general and push back against the Obama administration when it attempts such incursions on the free market.
But is that pressure ultimately what got this rule changed? Or was it Templeton putting the heat on agency officials one-on-one – refusing to take “no” for an answer?
Again, no one is likely to care about this EPA rule (even though its revision will likely keep a few more dollars in their pockets each month). But the process by which this victory was won is revealing – especially as it relates to the methods employed by two of the state’s top gubernatorial contenders.