Inhofe promises fight over EPA’s new MACT/MATS rule

The political reaction to new air rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was swift and along predictable lines, with Republicans in Congress and industry groups lining up against the rule.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, on Feb. 16 said he filed that day a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act that will prevent the EPA from going through with its Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (Utility MACT) rule, also known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).

EPA on Feb. 16 published in the Federal Register final new rules for both national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired electric generating units and standards of performance for fossil-fuel fired electric utility and industrial-commercial-institutional units.

“The failure of the United States Senate to rein in the Obama-EPA is having a devastating impact on the pocketbooks of American families and threatens the jobs and livelihoods of millions of Americans,” Inhofe warned. “Over the past year, more than a dozen Senate Democrats have claimed that they want to stop EPA’s destructive agenda, yet when the time comes, they hide behind alternative bills they know will never pass.  This way, they can tell their constituents they are trying to help – when the reality is their actions are enabling them to protect President Obama’s left wing ideals. The House has passed numerous bipartisan bills, yet not a single one has passed the United States Senate. It’s time for the Senate to do its job and stop this regulatory nightmare.”

Inhofe called the Utility MACT rule one of the most expensive environmental rules in American history, second only to President Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade rules that failed to pass legislatively.   

“When one cuts through EPA’s propaganda, the health benefits the Agency touts are virtually nonexistent,” Inhofe claimed. “In reality, Utility MACT is designed to kill coal. As EPA admits, this extension of Obama’s cap-and-trade agenda will cost American families up to $11 billion in electricity rate increases (over 11 percent increase, on average), and destroy up to 1.4 million jobs.”

The Congressional Review Act provides for an expedited Senate floor procedure to overturn executive agency rules by a simple majority vote. If passed by both chambers and signed into law, the joint resolution would effectively send the rule back to EPA to be rewritten in conformance with Congressional direction.

EPA has broad authority and discretion to regulate hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, Inhofe noted. In the event the Utility MACT rule is disapproved, the agency would not be barred from seeking achievable, cost-effective emissions reductions from power plants, Inhofe added.

NMA takes rule right to court

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn said Feb. 16 that NMA has petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for review of this rule. NMA represents the nation’s largest coal producers.

EPA has dangerously underestimated the impact of the Utility MACT and related rules on the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid,” said Quinn. “Within a matter of weeks of the final rule’s unveiling, the announced retirements of electricity plants already exceeds EPA’s dubious estimate. These announcements demonstrate the cruel reality of EPA’s regulatory agenda—less reliability, higher costs to consumers and businesses and lost employment.” 

EPA has compounded the flaws in its high-cost, tight-compliance regulatory strategy by hiding the real-world consequences, said Quinn. “NMA will continue to advocate policies that support, rather than discriminate against, America’s most abundant and secure fuel—U.S. coal—and the men and women, businesses and communities that rely on coal to provide reliable, affordable electricity,” Quinn added.

Coalition backs Inhofe work

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group, applauded Inhofe’s efforts in a Feb. 16 statement. “Congressional action is essential to stop this heavy-handed new regulation by EPA that will needlessly drive up energy prices for all Americans and destroy jobs,” said Steve Miller, president and CEO of the coalition. “With half of Americans now devoting more than 20 percent of their family budget to energy costs, EPA is making energy much more expensive with the most costly regulation ever imposed by the agency on the coal-fueled electricity industry. Given the fragility of America’s economic recovery, that’s the wrong policy, at the worst possible time.”

The Utility MACT regulation would lead to the closure of many coal-fueled power plants. A comprehensive analysis by National Economic Research Associates found that the proposed Utility MACT Rule and other finalized and pending EPA regulations for power plants using coal could destroy an average of 183,000 jobs every year from 2012- 2020 and increase electricity and other energy prices by $170bn, said the coalition.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.