The next "green" plan: Have the feds seize coal plants and shut them down

How did we not think of this before?

You can almost smell the excitement in the air around the green energy warrior community. The Washington Post ran an op-ed this week from “environmental attorney” Stephen Kass in which he puts forth a bold plan for dealing with climate change and the nation’s stubborn refusal to let go of proven, reliable energy generation via fossil fuels. The big target in Kass’ sights is the coal industry and the nation’s remaining coal fired power plants. With resistance growing to the Obama administration’s deceptively named Clean Power Plan, the author comes up with a more, shall we say… direct plan of action. Just have Washington take over the coal plants and close them.

In the more benign version of his plan he first suggests buying them out, closing them, and retraining all the workers who would suddenly be on the unemployment line.

The Supreme Court’s decision in February to stay President Obama’s Clean Power Plan may lead to a protracted legal battle over aging, unprofitable and environmentally unsound coal plants. But instead of litigating our way out of the problem, there is a simpler solution: The federal government could buy the plants and close them.

While this would be disastrous for the nation’s power grid, Kass at least suggests that the energy industry be paid for their investment in the facilities before Big Brother shuts them down in the name of political correctness. But he also clearly realizes that there might be some resistance to the idea. So what’s the backup plan in that event? The answer is easy and obvious to anyone who favors an all powerful executive branch of the federal government. (Emphasis added)

There is another alternative — which I’ll call Plan A — that would avoid the considerable litigation risks of the Clean Power Plan and achieve more quickly and with greater certainty a reduction in emissions at least equal to those of the Clean Power initiative. Under Plan A, the federal government would buy or, if necessary, seize under eminent domain all existing U.S. coal plants and close them over 10 years. Such a use of federal authority is well-established and would not be subject to serious legal challenge. (Plant owners could dispute the amount of compensation offered but not the public purpose of federal action intended to protect the environment.)

Ah, yes. The first recourse of those who can’t win an argument on the merits in the court of public opinion in the world as it exists after the Kelo v. New London SCOTUS decision. If businesses or private citizens don’t agree with your policies, simply seize their land or facilities and pay them what you say it’s worth. Would these power plants become facilities which are set up for public use? Obviously not. But under the flawed, unconstitutional back door provided by Kelo, they can claim it’s for the public benefit. Uncle Sam will save you all from yourselves.

The real winners in the endless battle which would follow such an authoritarian proposal would, of course, be the lawyers. The case would drag on forever, generating massive legal fees and absorbing the attention of politicians and the media. And who better to push for such a scheme than the author, Mr. Kass, who just coincidentally happens to be listed as Senior Environmental Counsel, Co-Director, Environmental Practice Group at Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP.

Hopefully enough smidgens of sanity remain inside of Washington to see the overriding threat to the nation’s stability from a plan such as the one Kass proposes. With all of the coal fired plants closed in a single decade, where will our energy come from? The author claims that this bold initiative will, “provide a strong incentive for wind, solar and other renewables to replace the lost coal capacity at rates that are already competitive with coal.”

Oh really?

Currently, the power grid produces 67% of the electricity we use from fossil fuels. 33% of it comes from coal. By contrast, solar power provides 0.6% of our electricity and wind kicks in another 4.7%. And that’s with massive government subsidies propping up the companies attempting to establish these projects. The locations where the coal plants are found aren’t exactly known for the levels of sunshine one finds in the southwest and the wind doesn’t blow reliably everywhere. But Kass thinks we can magically replace a third of our power with these resources if the government simply attacks coal industry with a big enough hammer.

That’s an incredible piece of thinking right there, folks. We’re already facing the possibility of rolling brownouts given the current strain on our power grid and a failure to both toughen and smarten up the infrastructure. But now we can simply shut off one third of the supply? This a great proposal if you make your living litigating environmental lawsuits for the green warriors, but it’s a suicide dive for the rest of us who have to live in the real world.