(This opinion editorial first ran in The State on November 23, 2015)
Last month, Attorney General Alan Wilson joined his counterparts in 23 states in filing a federal lawsuit to temporarily block the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and to find the rule invalid.
The rule gives each state its own goal for reducing carbon emissions by 2030. Collectively the national goal is to cut the carbon pollution 32 percent from 2005 levels to address the dangerous consequences of unchecked climate change.
The litigants complain that the rule is not legal and that it will hurt jobs, raise electricity rates and result in unreliable electricity.
Some constitutional lawyers insist that the EPA is well within the law; however, the federal courts will have to decide that issue.
But only a couple of states were needed to bring that matter to the courts.
So why is Mr. Wilson spending taxpayer money by joining the fight? In fact, why isn't Mr. Wilson joining the 15 states plus the District of Columbia that filed a motion earlier this month to intervene in support of the EPA? There are important reasons for him to do the latter:
1. The Clean Power Plan will protect S.C. jobs. Our coastal tourism economy is severely threatened by sea level rise as a result of carbon-pollution-caused climate change. From Cherry Grove to Beaufort, beaches, residential areas and small business districts will be inundated by the ocean with just a few feet of higher seas. Scientists have projected up to a six-foot sea level rise by the end of the century from unrestrained climate change. This would be a major economic disaster along the Palmetto State's coast, with up to a third of the Charleston peninsula succumbing to the ocean tides. South Carolina's biggest industry, tourism, and it tens of thousands of workers could be lost in this scenario.
2. The rule will create new S.C. jobs. The alternative-energy industry is beginning to expand along with jobs thanks to the Legislature passing incentives for solar energy. In addition, more jobs will be created from a focus on energy efficiency to help meet the state's EPA goal.
3. The rule probably will not result in higher electricity rates in South Carolina than are already anticipated. S.C. Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper are building two nuclear plants just outside of the state capital. These new reactors are expected to enable the state to achieve 80 percent of the carbon-emission-reduction goal under the Clean Power Plan. The rest will be relatively easy to obtain through alternative energy and energy efficiency. Thus the Clean Power Plan itself should require little additional cost to S.C. ratepayers.
4. South Carolina has a long history of using nuclear energy to produce electricity, and with that serving as the dominant engine in meeting the Clean Energy Plan goal for the state, electricity reliability is not an issue.
An opinion poll released this summer shows that 62 percent of S.C. voters strongly or somewhat favor the EPA's Clean Power Plan rule to reduce carbon emissions.
Mr. Wilson is on the wrong side of this issue. He should withdraw South Carolina as a plaintiff and instead file in support of the EPA's effort.
Mr. Knapp is the president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the American Sustainable Business Council