Democrats in Congress are looking to impose a federal clean electricity standard through budget reconciliation, but West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warns that the impact of such measure could have a "cataclysmic" impact on many states’ economies.
A clean electricity standard would require utilities to cut emissions and produce a certain amount of their power from renewable sources. In a phone interview, Morrisey said the drastic changes the standard would impose with a short deadline of 2030 would be "lunacy," and would hurt energy companies as well as consumers.
"If you take a state like West Virginia which currently derives 90% of its power from coal and you have to put it on a forced plan within an eight-year period, no one is going to make that goal," Morrisey told FOX Business. "And West Virginia is going to be hurt tremendously because of its current reliance on coal and natural gas. So we’re very concerned that this would lead to cataclysmic conditions, not only in West Virginia but any state that’s going to have to shift its energy mix significantly."
"They’re setting up completely unrealistic goals. You can’t diversify your way into a new world in an eight-and-a half-year period," Morrisey said. "It’s completely unrealistic unless you just don’t care about the level of pain that you’re going to be imposing on Appalachia and many energy-producing states."
Morrisey said states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio and Kentucky could also be severely impacted due to their respective ways of getting energy.
If the deadline was 2050 or 2060, Morrisey said, "those are different types of discussions where people at least would be showing that they understand the nature of how certain states derive their power."
The attorney general made clear that he is not against using other forms of energy, but said that the federal government should not be rushing states into something.
"Markets have a way of adjusting and innovating and we should welcome all types of energy and all types of innovation," he said. "But what we’re talking about here is an impossible plan that is designed to impose a lot of pain on a lot of states. Not only energy-producing states but manufacturing states and individuals who are going to be paying their power bills while at the same time China is getting a free ride."
Morrisey said that while the Biden administration is looking to take aggressive and costly steps to reduce carbon emissions, China will still be continuing or increasing its practices.
The Republican AG said Democratic lawmakers should have gone through the traditional legislative process.
"The first thing they could do is they could have a real debate on this through the appropriate committees and not try to shove it in in the middle of the night in reconciliation because they’re trying to get one party to support it," he said. "They could have broad discussions and then you would need to have Congress act on that specific area. That’s not what they’re doing. They know they can’t get 60 votes so they’re working hard to slide this into reconciliation."
Morrisey said that another reason why Democrats are using budget reconciliation is because the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the power to do it themselves, as was learned when the Supreme Court blocked the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in 2016. He said the current plan is "nothing more than the Clean Power Plan on steroids," but noted that he would have to see the actual language before determining how to go about mounting a legal challenge.
In the end, Morrisey warned, the clean energy standard would hurt consumers.
"Across the country, Americans are going to see their utility bills soar and we need to prevent that from happening," he said.