Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh seem to be in the minority when it comes to a federal proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Faced with adjudicating the first big legal test of the Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called Clean Power Plan, the two federal judges last week wondered aloud whether they should wade into questions over the legality of a policy when the final version hasn’t yet been written.
“We could guess what the final rule looks like, but we’re not usually in the business of guessing,” Griffith said during arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Such reticence has been rare during most discussions of the Obama administration’s plan to require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from plants by 30 percent. Opinions have been strong and loud.
Opponents and supporters have spent the better part of a year trying to convince others that the plan will either bring the electrical grid crashing down while quadrupling utility bills, or provide our only hope of avoiding a climate resembling that planet where Luke Skywalker grew up.
Neither scenario sounds like much fun. It’s unlikely that many environmentalists who favor the plan really want to live in the dark, and most industry types opposed to the policy are not yearning for a light saber battle with the Sand People on Tatooine.
Yet the rhetoric in this fight has reached some stratospheric levels.
Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, one of the plaintiffs in the legal challenge being heard by Griffith and Kavanaugh, last year compared the Obama White House with the Nazi regime during a visit to Pittsburgh. He called climate change a hoax.
Last month, Sharon Wilson, an organizer for the environmental group Earthworks, compared oil and gas fracking in Texas with rape.
Given the measured approach signaled in court, we can probably expect an opinion from Judges Griffith and Kavanaugh free of any comparisons with Nazis, rapists or Jedi knights, though federal courts move so slowly, we probably will see another “Star Wars” movie hit theaters first.
In the meantime, those looking for a more reasoned debate of the plan’s pros and cons had some good opportunities this month.
The Center for American Progress last week laid out an argument last week for speeding up the switch to more renewable sources of electricity while still relying on natural gas, as outlined in the Clean Power Plan.
On the other side, Kevin Sunday, government affairs manager for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that it supports legislation that would put the plan on hold until lawsuits are resolved so customers don’t experience huge rate swings.