Wyoming lawmakers outraged at Obama’s climate plan

Jun 28, 2013

This week President Obama announced he's going to attempt to combat climate change from the Oval Office. Wyoming's three Republicans in Congress are none too happy with his plan. As Matt Laslo reports, they say it could cripple the state's economy and hit your pocket. 

MATT LASLO: Climate change wasn't really a part of the 20-12 election, so the president surprised many when he promised to deal with global warming in his second inaugural address. Now he's coming out swinging again...charging Republicans with being deaf to the scientific community. 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: “Ninety-seven-percent of scientists including by the way some who originally disputed the data have now put that to rest. They have acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.”

LASLO: Wyoming's lawmakers didn't like that jab. I was next to Amy Harder – who covers climate change for National Journal – as she took the president’s assertion to Wyoming Senator John Barrasso.

AMY HARDER: “Do you think there needs to be debate about the science of climate change?

JOHN BARRASSO: “The president wants to ignore the economic impacts…”HARDER: “But do you disagree with his science?”

BARASSO: “We all want to make energy as clean as we can, as fast as we can, and do it in ways that don’t raise cost for American families…”

HARDER: “Right, but on the science of climate change to you disagree with what he’s saying?”

BARASSO: “Well, he kind of talked about the ‘Flat Earth Society.’ You know we have a very flat economy and its because of the president's unwillingness to help us create jobs in this country.”

LASLO: Flat earth or not, Barrasso never answered what side of the climate debate he's on. But Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis thinks it’s more helpful to flip the president's proposition on its head.  

CYNTHIA LUMMIS: “The science tells us that if China and Russia do nothing that no matter how much energy we cease to consume that we cannot affect global warming.” 

LASLO: And Wyoming senior Senator Mike Enzi has his own way of viewing the science.

MIKE ENZI: “I’ve always said that there’s five billion dollars a year being spent to prove climate change and there is five billion dollars a year being spent to disprove climate change. We ought to take the $10 billion and actually make a difference.”

LASLO: The president says because Congress won't address global warming, he's going to. And he says the Clean Air Act gives him unilateral authority to curb emissions. 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: “In the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.”

LASLO: Wyoming lawmakers - and other Republicans across the U-S - are up in arms over what they say is another Executive Branch overreach. Wyoming lawmakers, of course, are worried because the president's move promises to pinch producers across the state. The White House hasn't released the exact details of its plan, but the broad outline is something that is sending shivers down the spines of oil and coal executives: the government putting heavy regulations on power plants. Enzi says that’s going to squeeze this shaky economy even further.

ENZI: “Everybody ought to be worried about utility prices. The companies don’t pay the tax, the consumer does. So their electricity is going to be more expensive, their gasoline is going to be more expensive, their clothes are going to be more expensive. Anything that’s manufactured uses energy and the price of energy is going to go up dramatically.”

LASLO: Enzi says the state isn’t sitting pretty in this new scenario.

ENZI: “A lot of revenue comes from the coal, the oil, natural gas, coal bed methane, and those are – coals being picked on primarily – but each of those others will be on their own turn. And that’s where a lot of Wyoming’s revenue comes from.”

LASLO: But Lummis says it goes deeper than that. She says picking emerging renewable energy sources over traditional fossil fuels will smack the very people the president claims he wants to help.

LUMMIS: “To hold down poor people by forcing on them the fuel of choice for the American elite is the ultimate in arrogance.”

LASLO: For now it’s a waiting game as the Obama Administration crafts the details of its new policy to combat global warming. In the meantime Wyoming’s energy producers and lawmakers are angry, bracing and trying to figure out what the new world of U-S energy policy will look like.

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Matt Laslo.