By SCOTT BAUER
and TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Scott Walker joined other Republican presidential candidates Monday in decrying new rules from the Obama administration designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, saying they would have “devastating impacts” and cost ratepayers billions of dollars.
Walker asked Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to join other states in filing a federal lawsuit to block implementation of the rule that Obama unveiled Monday afternoon at the White House. Schimel vowed to do just that, calling the rule an “unlawful action.”
“Yet again, President Obama is taking unilateral action and overstepping the limits of his authority to pursue a political agenda,” Walker said in a statement.
Environmentalists hailed the pollution controls as a monumental step toward combatting global warming.
“These historic standards will ensure that big polluters can no longer spew an unlimited amount of carbon pollution into our air,” said Kerry Schumann, executive director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.
Walker, who officially launched his campaign for president last month, said Obama ignored issues that will lead to lead to higher utility costs, “unnecessarily harming families and killing manufacturing jobs.”
The new rules give states an additional two years — until 2022 — to comply, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. States will also have an additional year to submit their implementation plans to Washington.
The early version of the rule released in June 2014 by the U.S. Environmental Agency required Wisconsin to reduce emissions by 34 percent by 2030.
The new version calls for Wisconsin to reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2024, gradually cutting more until ultimately emissions are 41 percent less by 2030. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a chart explaining the rule, said the rates for Wisconsin are “reasonable and achievable because on plant and no state has to meet them all alone or all at once.”
Walker sent a letter to the EPA in December arguing Wisconsin utilities already have invested billions in renewable energy and pointing to Public Service Commission estimates that compliance could cost between $3.3 billion and $13.4 billion and electric bills could jump as much as 29 percent.
“We will examine the final plan in detail, but clearly Wisconsin’s extensive, constructive comments to the EPA have fallen on deaf ears in Washington,” Walker said.
Walker called on the PSC together with the Department of Natural Resources to come up with a new estimate. DNR spokesman Jim Dick said the governor hasn’t established a deadline for new numbers.
The state chamber of commerce, a supporter of Walker’s and longtime critic of the tighter pollution controls, issued a statement calling the proposed rule “all pain and no gain.”
“By any measure, the new EPA coal rule will cost Wisconsin billions of dollars in lost economic activity and, worst of all, many factory workers will pay with their jobs,” said Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce vice president Scott Manley.
Wisconsin joined 14 other states in a lawsuit challenging the preliminary rules in April. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., threw the lawsuit out in June, ruling that since the rule wasn’t finalized the court lacked the authority to review it.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, speaking at a summit of Republican state attorneys general, promised an “aggressive legal campaign” by his state and others to fight the new rules.