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Top 10 Reasons Why States Should Ignore Senator McConnell's 'Just Say No' Advice on Carbon Pollution

04/01/2015 06:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015
Sasha Radosavljevic via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently penned an op-ed and a letter to governors urging states to refuse to cooperate with the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants under.

Governors aren't rushing to jump on his bandwagon. They know that if a state doesn't write its own clean air plan, then the Clean Air Act requires EPA to regulate the state's power plants directly.

McConnell's call to "Just Say No" is a bad idea on many other levels too. Here 10 more reasons why states should reject the Kentucky lawmaker's advice.

1. Governors already are preparing to work with EPA

On the same day McConnell dispatched his letter, the National Governor's Association announced the launch of a "Policy Academy" to help states prepare for their participation in the Clean Power Plan with four states leading the way, Michigan, Missouri, Utah and Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf called the academy a "great opportunity to help Pennsylvanians write a Clean Power Plan that will work for Pennsylvania and improve our economy and environment."

2. The majority of Americans support climate action

Six in 10 Americans, including half of Republicans, support putting limits on carbon dioxide to fight climate change. Nearly half of Republicans say the United States should lead the global fight to curb climate change, even if it means taking action when other countries do not.

Nationally, majorities across all parties say environmental protections improve economic growth and provide new jobs, all according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and Yale University December 2014 poll.

Furthermore, the public distrusts "climate deniers." Mike McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist, cautioned that Republicans lose ground when they question climate science -- or claim "I'm not a scientist" like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) "It is untenable, politically, philosophically, ideologically and from a common-sense basis to say, 'We agree that everything is going to hell, but we don't think anything should be done about it,'" McKenna said.

3. Large majorities of Americans in big states want states to draft their own plans to meet the Clean Power Plan's targets

More than eight in 10 of Americans in four key states--Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois--want their state leaders to meet new federal standards by designing a state-specific plan to curb dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, bipartisan polling shows.

These findings show the public directly at odds with McConnell's call for states to "just say no" and leave it to EPA to step in and regulate the power plants.

4. States sit in the driver's seat to expand clean energy and modernize their energy mix

The Clean Power Plan provides maximum flexibility for each state to design its own most cost-effective way to reduce carbon pollution. States can work with utilities to modernize their energy mix, growing their economies and creating jobs by investing in cleaner energy sources and making businesses, homes, and other buildings more energy efficient. States will benefit by using less dirty energy and saving consumers money on their electric bills.

5. State-designed plans are good for business

Setting common-sense standards on carbon pollution will promote certainty that power companies and other businesses need to plan for the future.

The carbon standards have the potential to drive a clean energy boom that will create thousands and thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs by expanding renewable wind and solar power, and energy efficiency. There will be greater demand for electricians, heating/air conditioning installers, carpenters, construction equipment operators, roofers, insulation workers, industrial truck drivers, construction managers, and building inspectors, all jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

A strong carbon pollution standard could create 274,000 efficiency-related jobs, a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows.

6. The Clean Air Act give states the first shot at cleaning up their air

This is how the Clean Air Act has worked for 45 years, since President Richard Nixon signed the law in 1970. Air pollution is a national problem. It doesn't stop at state borders.

That's why Congress passed the Clean Air Act to set national clean air standards, with states in the lead to implement those standards, and the federal government in reserve to act where states do not. The law gives states the first shot at cleaning up their air. But it also guarantees them a level playing field to keep unscrupulous businesses from playing them off against each other.

For more than four decades, states have taken the lead to shape their own clean air plans that meet national targets but are tailored to state needs. In rare cases states have failed to act, and EPA has been there to fill the gap, to protect public health and clean up the air until the state picks up the ball.

7. Power companies want states to take charge, and not leave carbon regulation to EPA

If a state follows Sen. McConnell's bad advice, power plant pollution will still be limited - but by Washington, not by the state. And though federal plans will be cost-effective and flexible, states have even more tools and choices if they do the job themselves.

Most power companies and other businesses want states to take the lead and not leave it to EPA. And as the new polling results show, so do members of the public.

Power companies in many states have worked against state legislation to block EPA. The reason? They want the state - the level of government closest to them - to make the key decision. They don't want states to leave it to Washington.

8. No one wants to look like Florida Gov. Scott

Last year Florida Governor Rick Scott dodged climate questions by saying "I'm not a scientist." Lately he came under fire for directing state agencies to not utter the words "climate change" or "global warming."

The Miami Herald compared two versions of the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council's Annual Research Plan. The 2009-10 report, published a year before Scott was elected, had 15 references to climate change, including an entire section called "Research Priorities -- Climate Change." The 2014-15 report mentions "climate change" only if it in the title of a previous report or conference.

Gov. Rick Scott's climate denialism is especially galling because Florida is one of the states most threatened by climate change. "Sea level rise presents major challenges to South Florida's existing coastal water management system due to a combination of increasingly urbanized areas, aging flood control facilities, flat topography, and porous limestone aquifers," according to the National Climate Assessment, a report by 13 federal agencies and leading scientists.

9. States' rights are best protected when states chart their own destiny

McConnell's "just say no" plea abandons a core Republican principle that the states -- not Washington -- should chart their destiny. McConnell knows that EPA must step in with a federal plan if a state says "no," so he's counseling the states to turn decisions over to Washington. Why is he doing this? He's promoting the Big Polluter Agenda. Polluters spent $720 million in the last elections to elect a Republican Congress.

"For all his partisan animus toward President Obama, it is still shocking to see the Senate's majority leader, Mitch McConnell, urge the nation's governors to undermine the Obama administration's efforts to regulate power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming," said the New York Times.

10. McConnell should do his job, and let states do theirs

Governors don't need the Senate Majority Leader in Washington to tell them how to run their states. They know what's best. They can do it themselves.