President Obama has found himself at odds with his old law school mentor over the Environmental Protection Agency.
Laurence Tribe, a liberal constitutional scholar at Harvard University, told House lawmakers that EPA carbon dioxide regulations are tearing the Constitution apart.
“EPA possesses only the authority granted to it by Congress,” Tribe told lawmakers in a hearing Tuesday. “Its gambit here raises serious questions under the separation of powers… because EPA is attempting to exercise lawmaking power that belongs to Congress and judicial power that belongs to the federal courts.”
“Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy,” Tribe added.
Tribe, along with other legal and energy experts, appeared before Congress Tuesday to give testimony on the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” — the agency’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. Tribe told lawmakers the CPP is unconstitutional and outside the agency’s authority.
“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts all at once,” Tribe told lawmakers.
This is not the first time Tribe criticized the EPA’s power plant rules. In December, Tribe wrote a scathing regulatory comment attacking the Obama administration’s CPP for violating the Fifth and 10th Amendments of the Constitution.
“The [EPA’s rule] demonstrates the risk of allowing an unaccountable administrative agency to ‘make’ law and attempt to impose the burden of global climate change on an unlucky and unfortunate few,” wrote Tribe, who is on retainer for the coal company Peabody Energy. “EPA’s singling out of a mere handful of emitters and limiting (or curtailing) their property is exactly the type of overreaching the Fifth Amendment seeks to prevent.”
Coal companies have argued the EPA’s rule will result in more coal-fired power plants being shut down because they would be out of compliance. About a dozen states have also sued the EPA over its power plant rule, saying it infringed on states’ rights.
Despite Tribe’s criticism of the EPA’s regulatory plan, Democratic lawmakers said the plan was legally sound. One Democrat even attacked Tribe’s integrity as a legal scholar.
“You can get Constitutional lawyers on both sides to say anything,” said New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone.
The EPA has also rebuffed criticisms of its rule saying the “Supreme Court made clear in 2007, and affirmed recently that EPA has an obligation to limit carbon pollution because it’s a harm to human health,” an EPA spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation in December.
The EPA’s plan aims to cut power plant emissions 30 percent by 2030. But the agency admits that its regulation will increase electricity retail prices 6.5 percent by 2020 and force 19 percent of U.S. coal-fired capacity to shutdown.
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