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Pushing Back on Washington

By Governor Pete Ricketts

August 17, 2015

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One of the greatest barriers to growing Nebraska is the increasingly burdensome regulations coming out of Washington, D.C.  As Governor, one of my top priorities is pushing back on these regulations and creating a business-friendly climate in our state so that hardworking Nebraskans can find the good-paying jobs that we rely on to keep Nebraska a great place to live, work, and raise a family.  Washington bureaucrats, however, have continued to author new rules that seek to regulate many aspects of our lives.

Earlier this summer, the Obama Administration announced the final Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule which appears to give federal authorities the ability to regulate almost any body of water imaginable.  Previously, the federal government’s regulatory authority was generally limited to “navigable” bodies of water like rivers or lakes.  In fact, the Clean Water Act mentions the phrase “navigable waters” over 80 times.  After this final rule, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now has the authority to regulate ponds, ditches, or even standing water after a rain.  This is a massive expansion of their authority, and has potentially costly impacts on farmers, ranchers, and businesses who may be required to seek expensive permits when their activities impact even relatively small bodies of water. 

At the beginning of this month, President Obama launched a new initiative which he is calling his “Clean Power Plan.”  This plan aims to reduce carbon emissions by forcing individual states to develop plans to reduce emissions to a target level mandated by the federal government.  For example, Nebraska would be required to reduce emissions by 40% with compliance required by 2022, less than seven years away.  While this plan involves state action, compliance by our state was made virtually impossible because of logistical barriers.  For instance, it takes longer to plan new power transmission lines and new sources of power, than the Obama Administration gave states for compliance.

The Clean Power Plan will also prove to be costly for our state and consumers.  In Nebraska, our public power districts have a statutory obligation to provide low-cost power to their customers.  Utility companies are starting to examine the impact of the Clean Power Plan on their ratepayers, and some are already finding that it will force them to move from low-cost sources of power like coal, which means higher utility bills for consumers like you.  Recent studies of how the Clean Power Plan would impact Nebraska have found that ratepayers in our state would face 12% to 35% increases in their utility bills.

Additionally, this mandate from the federal government is unnecessary because Nebraska utilities are already working to diversify their energy portfolio.  Nebraska has almost 500 wind turbines with a combined capacity of over 800 megawatts of power.  In 2014, utility-scale wind energy generated 2.8 billion kilowatthours of electricity.  This year, Nebraska Public Power District announced in conjunction with Monolith Materials that Sheldon Station near Hallam would be the first utility-scale hydrogen powered generator in the U.S., and is expected to produce 125 megawatts of clean electricity.  Ironically, it is unclear under the new rules whether Nebraska will even be able to count this project toward carbon emission reduction requirements. This demonstrates how poorly-written and misguided this new regulation is.

Washington continues to impose a new, unprecedented level of control on states which threatens our state’s sovereignty.  Because the EPA has overstepped the authority given to them by Congress, we have joined a lawsuit with 28 other states against the EPA over WOTUS.  We are also suing the federal government, along with 15 other states, over the Clean Power Plan.  The EPA must follow the law, and we cannot let their actions go unchecked.  I encourage you to contact your federal representatives and the EPA to let them know what you think about these new rules.  As you begin to feel the impact of these new regulations, I also want to hear from you.  Please contact my office by calling 402-471-2244 or emailing