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Climate Change: The EPA Has Gone Overboard

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Live Transcript
  • Coal is No Longer Economically Competitive

    Clip: Debater Carl Pope explains why renewable energy is not raising the price of electricity in the U.S.

  • Charles McConnell Opening Remarks

    Clip: Debater Charles McConnell explains why the Clean Power Plan is not environmental legislation.

  • Renewable Energy and the Clean Power Plan

    Clip: Carl Pope, Strategic Advisor to Michael Bloomberg, and Mike Nasi, Evironmental and Energy Lawyer & Partner, Jackson Walker LLP, debate whether the Clean Power Plan (CPP) is a trojan horse to get renewables into the system.

  • Volley Round: What Are Your Opponents Getting Wrong?

    Clip: Debaters Michael Nasi, Jody Freeman, Carl Pope and Charles McConnell discuss what they believe their opponents are getting most wrong.

  • What Is The Clean Power Plan Really Doing?

    Clip: Jody Freeman and Charles McConnell debate the details of what the EPA's Clean Power Plan really does.

Debate Details

Reducing carbon emissions is clearly good for the environment but often imposes substantial costs.  The costs are most obvious when coal companies go bankrupt, but can affect everyone indirectly through higher energy costs, slower economic growth, reduced employment, and lower business profits.   Has the Environmental Protection Agency considered the costs and benefits of its regulatory mandates fairly and appropriately? Is its Clean Power Plan a bold initiative to reduce carbon pollution at power plants, or an unconstitutional usurpation of power?

The Debaters

For the motion

Charles McConnell

Executive Director, Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative

Charles D. McConnell is executive director of Rice University's Energy and Environment Initiative, an interdisciplinary effort to partner with industry... Read More

Michael Nasi

Environmental and Energy Lawyer & Partner, Jackson Walker LLP

Michael Nasi is a partner with Jackson Walker LLP where he practices environmental and energy law. He secures environmental permits for and is active... Read More

Against the motion

Carl Pope

Former Executive Director, Sierra Club & Strategic Advisor to Michael Bloomberg

Carl Pope, a veteran leader in the environmental movement, is the former executive director and chairman of the Sierra Club. He's now the principal... Read More

Jody Freeman

Founding Director, Harvard Law School Environmental Law and Policy Program

Jody Freeman is the Archibald Cox Professor of Law and the founding director of the Harvard Law School Environmental Law and Policy Program. Her book... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Pollution is global. As EPA regulations stifle American industry, businesses operating in nations without such restrictions gain a competitive edge and offset any potential environmental benefit created by American emission controls.  
  • The economic burden of complying with EPA demands is passed from American companies to consumers and disproportionally affects the poor who cannot afford higher energy costs. 
  • EPA emission regulations force the closure of existing power plants and pressure businesses to adopt new, untested, and often unreliable technology, which compromises U.S. energy security.
  • While the U.S. may seek to be a leader in climate change regulations, bringing proposals to the international table that are highly unpopular and contested at home undermines American credibility abroad. 
  • Under the Clean Power Plan, states must file plans to reduce carbon emissions or accept a federal plan, which violates state sovereignty protected by the 10th Amendment. 
Against The Motion
  • The effects of climate change cannot be mitigated by one nation alone.  The U.S. must take a leadership role to combat this threat, which will require setting a global standard at home. 
  • To avoid overreach, the Clean Power Plan sets state emission reduction standards based on the economic impact of regulation in each state, and offers each state autonomy in how it will address compliance.
  • In 2009, the EPA formally found that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare; it has a clear mandate to enforce regulations that will counter this threat, regardless of opposing political or industry interests.  
  • EPA performance standards target the sources of pollution, which is a regulation of industry not states, and is both constitutionally sound and aligned with standard federal governance. 
  • EPA regulations and incentives encourage innovation and diversification within the American energy industry and make American companies more competitive in the 21st century global economy.


  • Live Audience
  • Online Audience
  • Results
  • Breakdown

The Research

The Research

EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track?

James E. McCarthy and Claudia Copeland
February 9, 2016
This report provides background information on EPA regulatory activity during the Obama Administration.

EPA's Carbon Plan Isn't Environmental Policy, but Pain and Politics

August 10, 2014

This Clean Carbon Plan does not — let me repeat — this plan does not impact CO2 levels or climate change in any relevant or impactful way.

Freeman and Lazarus: Is the President’s Climate Plan Unconstitutional?

March 18, 2015

Noted constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe ’66 has made headlines with his Congressional testimony that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional. Two leading Harvard Law professors with expertise in environmental law, administrative law, and Supreme Court environmental litigation, take an opposing view.

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