P.K. O’Neill guest col: ‘All pain no gain’ federal overreach

“No pain, no gain!” For years, exercise buffs have encouraged people to hit the gym with this phrase.

Would as many have been eager to get off the couch if the rallying cry had been, “All pain, no gain?”

One of the biggest disappointments of the Obama administration is their consistent federal overreach into state issues. From the regulation of carbon dioxide from power plants, which the Supreme Court recently halted, to the moratorium on new coal leasing on “federal lands,” this administration continues to trample on the rights of states and their citizens. Sadly, even in the midst of presidential primary season, there has been precious little talk on these important issues.

One of the centerpieces of President Obama’s energy agenda is the regulation of carbon dioxide from power plants — what the administration calls its “Clean Power Plan.” The regulation would force the shutdown of power plants that provide affordable and reliable electricity.

The administration is pushing this regulation in the name of climate change. But as the EPA’s own models show, this measure won’t impact global temperatures. However for Nevadans, who receive 78 percent of their electricity from coal and natural gas, this regulation would raise electricity prices and eliminate jobs.

Regulations that limit carbon dioxide emissions punish the use of affordable, reliable energy resources and prop up expensive and unreliable sources such as wind and solar power. Under the president’s “Clean Power Plan,” these extra costs would be passed down to ratepayers, hiking prices by as much as 19 percent.

Moreover, one of the options the administration permits for complying with the rule is a fee on carbon dioxide emissions — otherwise known as a carbon tax. A study by NERA Economic Consulting found a carbon tax would destroy 18,000 to 21,000 Nevada jobs by 2023. Furthermore, the energy-intensive manufacturing sector’s economic output would contract by almost 5 percent under a carbon tax.

EPA’s regulation is so controversial more than half of the states have joined a lawsuit to halt the rule. Lamentably, Nevada has failed to join the lawsuit against this regulation — in fact Harry Reid even praised the original draft of the rule, which clearly infringed on Nevada’s right to regulate our own energy supply.

To be clear, doubling down on big government mandates to raise energy costs for little to no environmental benefit is a recipe for failure. There’s no reason to prematurely comply with such a costly rule and trample on our state’s rights while the Supreme Court’s stay remains in place.

Not only is the Obama administration overreaching on this regulation, but it also took the extreme step of imposing a three-year moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands. This is a troubling move for a state like Nevada where the federal government owns 76 percent of our land. The administration claims this moratorium is to make sure coal leasing “delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.”

The problem with this rationale is it could also eventually be applied to natural gas and oil leasing on federal lands, cattle ranching on federal lands, and even recreation on federal lands — in essence, all uses of federal lands. In fact, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have already supported the idea of an outright ban on the production of natural gas, oil, and coal on federal lands.

This is a terrible overreach by the federal government that could have serious implications for the economy. For example, one of the biggest reasons we are currently enjoying low gas prices is thanks to American oil production — something the administration would apparently like to slow down.

To continue to drive Nevada’s economy forward, state leaders must remain vigilant in their opposition to federal overreach from the Obama administration. The Supreme Court’s recent decision has made standing up to EPA a much easier task. But we also need to stand up against new taxes on energy, the moratorium on coal leasing and possible moratoria on other uses of federal lands such as oil and natural gas production, or even ranching and recreation. To protect the interests and wellbeing of Nevada families, it’s our duty to avoid falling into the trap of accepting federal government overreach as the status quo.

P. K. O’Neill is a Carson City resident and Assemblyman for District 40.


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