Will Mitch McConnell Help Save Coal?

The Senator is using his office to organize a resistance movement to save coal from the Environmental Protection Agency.

coal is dead

The best part of this strategy is that Senator Mitch McConnell is appealing to states’ rights and sovereignty over against the overreaching grasp of the executive branch of the Federal Government. The New York Times reports,

On Thursday, Mr. McConnell sent a detailed letter to every governor in the United States laying out a carefully researched legal argument as to why states should not comply with Mr. Obama’s regulations. In the letter, Mr. McConnell wrote that the president was “allowing the E.P.A. to wrest control of a state’s energy policy.”

Another intriguing aspect of this strategy (and a risky one?) is that McConnell’s legal strategy hinges on a notorious liberal law professor:

Within that network is Laurence H. Tribe, a highly regarded scholar of constitutional law at Harvard Law School and a former mentor of Mr. Obama’s. Mr. Tribe caught Mr. McConnell’s attention last winter when he was retained to write a legal brief for Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest coal producer, in a lawsuit against the climate rules.

In the brief, Mr. Tribe argued that Mr. Obama’s use of the existing Clean Air Act to put forth the climate change regulations was unconstitutional. He then echoed that position in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal. He argued that in requiring states to cut carbon emissions, and thus to change their energy supply from fossil fuels to renewable sources, the agency is asserting executive power far beyond its lawful authority.

I have to admit that relying on Tribe for anything good worries me, but it is hard to imagine him reversing himself on something he has already argued. And I have to wonder what his relationship with Barack Obama really was. Am I supposed to believe he was really impressed with Obama’s understanding of the law? His sealed academic records don’t give us much reason to believe that.

In any case, it looks like we now have a bona fide pushback against Obama’s executive reach through the EPA. Peabody Energy was a major contributor to McConnell’s re-election campaign. Despite all McConnell’s flaws, there is reason to hope he is fully engaged in this struggle as a matter of life and death. Remember, he was elected by, and represents, a coal state. He has no reason to want to see its economy damaged.

And neither do any of us. Every one of us will be hurt if coal power is suddenly and artificially destroyed. It will mean that the price of all sources of electricity will shoot up. Do we even know if there are enough sources of power for the nation without coal… or is the EPA attempting to transform us into a land of rolling brownouts and energy rationing?