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THUNE: Unprecedented EPA power grab hurts SD families

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

It seems like middle-class Americans just can't catch a break. Over the past five and a half years of the Obama presidency, the price of everything has risen. Tuition prices have soared. Gas prices have almost doubled. Food prices have skyrocketed. And of course, health care costs just continue to rise.

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It shouldn't come as a surprise that the administration's latest proposal out of the Environmental Protection Agency is nothing more than a national energy tax that will be yet another sucker punch to middle-class families throughout South Dakota struggling to get by in the Obama economy.

The EPA's latest proposal is essentially a backdoor national energy tax that will damage our state's economy and hike electricity prices for all South Dakotans. Under the proposed rule, South Dakota power plants must reduce carbon dioxide emission rates 35 percent by 2030. That reduction mandate is more stringent than the national average for the EPA's proposed emission reductions from existing power plants.

South Dakota families dealing with hot summers, cold winters and long travel distances already contribute much of their income to energy costs. For South Dakota households with annual incomes below $50,000, one-fifth of their after-tax income is already spent on residential and transportation energy costs, which is double the national average. Unfortunately, the new rule is expected to increase electricity prices by as much as 10 percent.

Additionally, South Dakota's agriculture and manufacturing sectors are energy intensive and particularly susceptible to higher energy costs. The EPA projects that natural gas prices will increase by over 11 percent on account of this new regulation, which will likely translate into higher costs for fertilizer and manufacturing in South Dakota.

I recognize the devastating impact this national energy tax could have on South Dakota jobs and energy costs, which is why I'm helping lead the fight against this proposal. I am a co-sponsor of legislation introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to block the EPA's proposal unless it can prove the regulation will not eliminate jobs, increase electricity prices or reduce electricity reliability. I also joined 40 of my Senate colleagues in sending a letter on June 4 calling on President Obama to withdraw the costly proposal. In September of 2013, recognizing the Obama EPA's plans to propose this backdoor national energy tax, I introduced two amendments to Shaheen-Portman energy bill that would have stopped the EPA from moving forward with these carbon dioxide regulations, but Senate Democrats blocked all amendments.

While we all agree clean air is vitally important, this proposal will only destroy jobs and threaten grid reliability while essentially doing nothing to reduce global carbon dioxide concentrations. Rather than focusing on pleasing the far-left environmental wing of his party, the president should focus on creating jobs and keeping energy costs affordable for middle-class families.

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