Ruling gives state some breathing room

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

State officials are lauding a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision to delay President Obama's Clean Power Plan until legal challenges are resolved.

Nebraska joined 29 states and state agencies in challenging the rule, which would have a major impact on our electric bills because of the state's high dependence on coal for power generation.

"In the state of Nebraska, our public power entities have been proactive in recent years in developing ways to reduce carbon emissions, including developing several alternative renewable energy sources," Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said. "The EPA's rule change would disregard these efforts and exceeds reasonable standards," he said.

Opponents say the federal government can limit emissions from existing coal and gas plants, but not order states or electric power producers to use more natural gas, add more generators of renewable energy, or make additional energy efficiency investments instead of coal.

Nebraska has long benefitted from a public power system originating with McCook's Sen. George W. Norris, enjoying some of the lowest electrical rates in the United States, although some power districts have opted to purchase electricity from commercial sources in recent months.

The Obama administration's long-term goal of reducing carbon emissions is a noble one, but Nebraskans cannot afford the unreasonable rate hikes the Clean Power Plan would impose under a relatively short space of time.

Tuesday's Supreme Court decision could delay a final decision until 2017, after a new administration, which might or might not share Obama's views.

Nebraska should continue to develop alternative energy, and the distribution system it takes to deliver that power, but the Supreme Court ruling will at least give us some breathing room.

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