With Pruitt At EPA, Oklahomans May Get Relief From Clean Power Plan

More and more Oklahomans today are living in energy poverty.Energy poverty is defined as spending more than 10 percent of your income on electricity, natural gas, and other household energy costs. More than half of those surveyed in a 2011 poll said they were having a more difficult time paying their energy bills compared to the prior year.

Unfortunately, a big government plan being pushed down from Washington, DC threatens to trap more Oklahoma families in energy poverty. The aim of the so-called Clean Power Plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by power plants. If implemented, it will just raise the energy burden for poor and working-class families who can ill afford to face higher bills.

I recently authored a new study with the Pacific Research Institute called, “The Clean Power Plan’s Economic Impact.” (The study is available at www.pacificresearch.org.) My research found that, if implemented, the CPP will raise electricity costs for everyone in Oklahoma, with low-income communities hit the hardest.

On average, Oklahoma residents could soon see their average electricity bills rise to $1,724 per year.In Oklahoma City, average annual electricity costs could go up by roughly 20.2 percent under the Clean Power Plan. Worse, residents of Harmon, Latimer and Nowata Counties could see their energy bills go up by 20.4 percent. Low-income residents in Norman and across Cleveland County could see average annual electricity costs equal to 18.62 percent of their annual income.

But relief may be on the way thanks to the recent appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency by President-elect Donald Trump. Pruitt’s appointment could avert huge cost increases for Oklahomans if he reverses plans to implement the CPP.

As attorney general, Pruitt joined several other states in suing the federal government over the plan, challenging its constitutionality. In a 2014 op-ed, Pruitt wrote that the Clean Power Plan “undercuts the states’ abilities to manage their own power grid and will raise the cost of energy dramatically.” He also noted that Oklahoma has managed its power market in a way, “that has provided affordable, reliable energy to (Oklahomans) for nearly a century.” He’s right.

Trump said that “for too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn.”

In appointing Pruitt, Trump is signaling his administration’s intent to pursue policies that will safeguard the environment without imposing significant new costs on employers or hard-working Americans struggling to make ends meet through programs like the CPP.

Pruitt and Trump recognize that programs like the Clean Power Plan create a poverty trap. Low-income residents become hooked on government-funded energy assistance programs as the only way to afford their rising power bills. Consider that the number of U.S. households receiving energy assistance from the government was 40 percent higher in 2014 than before the Great Recession. This creates a disincentive to move up the economic ladder as working class Americans can’t afford to lose these subsidies.

I would encourage Trump and Pruitt to look closely at the results of our study and work instead to take whatever steps possible to stop the Clean Power Plan. By encouraging innovative, market-based solutions, we can reduce emissions in Oklahoma and across the country — without increasing costs to taxpayers or pushing more into a life of energy poverty.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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