Health care, Wall Street, the Internet—by the time President Obama leaves office, there may not be much of the economy left for his successor to take over. The better news is that his attempt to do the same to the energy industry is meeting heavy resistance in the states.
The Environmental Protection Agency is finishing a rule—expected in June or July—that requires the states to meet carbon-reduction targets by reorganizing their “production, distribution and use of electricity,” as the EPA puts it. This is an unprecedented federal usurpation of what has been a state responsibility since the invention of the modern steam turbine in the 1880s.
States are normally allowed as much as three years to comply with EPA mandates that are far less complex than this one. But the EPA will instruct them to submit implementation plans by summer 2016 and make interim progress as soon as 2020. The rule is intended to impress the greendees of the Paris climate conference this year, so Mr. Obama can announce a global climate deal.
The plan hangs on an obscure section of the 44-year-old Clean Air Act. That law’s section 111(d) was well understood but the EPA has published a new interpretation of these several hundred words that runs 1,200 pages. No less a dean of legal liberalism than Harvard’s Larry Tribe is stunned by this attempt to nationalize U.S. electric generation.
States will be told to meet the targets using four “building blocks.” The first is uncontroversial: improving the efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants and installing pollution-control technology like smokestack scrubbers. But for the first time the EPA is also telling states to roam “outside the fence line” of power plants to force coal and eventually natural gas to shut down, mandate quotas for renewables like wind and solar, and impose energy conservation.
The problem is that the federal government has no legal power outside the fence line. Last year the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals slapped down the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s bid to claim authority over “demand response” on the electric grid.
Thus the EPA is trying to coerce the states into doing what it can’t do itself. Read the rest of this entry »
Despite anti-gun hysteria following shootings, the trend is toward expanding gun rights.
For USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: This past weekend, the Tennessee Law Review held a symposium on “New Frontiers in the Second Amendment.” It was a follow-up, of sorts, to a symposium held almost 20 years ago, and boy, has a lot changed since then.
“Overall, the trend of the past couple of decades seems to be toward expanding gun rights, just as the trend in the 1950s and 1960s was toward expanding free speech rights”
In 1995, Second Amendment scholarship had been almost entirely nonexistent for decades, and what little there was (mostly written by lobbyists for gun-control groups) treated the matter as open-and-shut: The Second Amendment, we were told, protected only the right of state militias (or as former Chief Justice Warren Burger characterized them, “state armies“) to possess guns.
Lower court opinions, to the extent they existed, were largely in agreement, and the political discussion, such as it was, generally held that anyone who believed that the Second Amendment might embody a judicially enforceable right for ordinary citizens to possess guns was a shill — probably paid — for the NRA. Whatever the Second Amendment meant, it did not, we were told, protect a right of individuals to possess firearms, enforceable in court against governmental entities that infringed on individuals’ gun possession.
But then came a wave of scholarship, much of it by eminent constitutional scholars ranging from William Van Alstyne, to Laurence Tribe, to Sanford Levinson, toRobert Cottrol, exploring the original purposes and understanding of the Second Amendment. By the turn of the millennium, it was well-established among scholars that the Second Amendment was intended to protect an individual right to arms, one that would be enforceable in court against infringements by states, municipalities and the federal government.
[Glenn Reynolds is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself look for it at Amazon]