Democrats and Republicans slam EPA’s CO2-control proposal

The criticism of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s March 27 unveiling of a proposed New Source Performance Standard under the Clean Air Act that would effectively ban construction of new coal plants without CO2 capture and sequestration keeps pouring in, even from Democrats.

Coal state Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said in a March 27 statement: “This move by the EPA can lead to only one conclusion–the Obama administration is trying to end the use of coal as we know it. This regulation will devastate West Virginia and our region by reducing jobs and unnecessarily increasing the cost of power for our citizens. I will not stand for it. This latest announcement is yet another example of the EPA’s inappropriate use of its regulatory authority to set policy for our country. Those decisions reside within the Congress, not an unelected bureaucracy.”

Tomblin noted that a few days before, a federal district court ruled that EPA had overstepped its authority in vetoing a coal mining permit for Arch Coal’s (NYSE:ACI) Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia that was issued under the Clean Water Act. Tomblin said the new CO2 rule shows that the EPA continues to act beyond its authority and in a “short-sighted manner” that will hurt the U.S. economy and cost our jobs. “I will continue to vigorously defend our great state against the EPA’s overreaching, ideologically-driven policies that threaten to kill coal,” Tomblin said. “We should be working to make our country more energy independent and create jobs, not harm them.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Tomblin’s predecessor as governor, said in his own March 27 statement: “As today’s announcement shows, this EPA is fully engaging in a war on coal, even though this country will continue to rely on coal as an affordable, stable and abundant energy source for decades to come. This approach relies totally on cheap natural gas and we’ve seen that bubble burst before. It might sound good now, but what happens if those prices go up? Your average hardworking families and manufacturers will be left holding the bag of uncertainty – either in the prices they pay or in the reliability of our electrical system.”

Manchin said the EPA actions shows that the Obama Administration doesn’t really have it promised “all-of-the-above energy” approach after all. “Instead of trying to completely eliminate coal in the long-term, the EPA should be trying to work with industry,” Manchin added. “The EPA should have learned from the federal court decision last week on Spruce Mine that they’re overreaching their authority. But this ill-advised proposal to prevent new coal-fueled generation will move this country away from using all our domestic resources, and I will fight it every step of the way.”

Top Republicans on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce said in a March 27 statement that the proposal would add to the “tangle of regulatory red tape” already imposed by other new rules affecting electric utilities, effectively forming a “backdoor energy tax” on families and businesses.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, a frequent White House critic, tried to tie this proposed regulation to rising gasoline prices, a frequent Republican talking point during this presidential campaign season.

“Power plants across America have already begun to shutter because of this administration’s anti-energy policies,” said Boehner in a March 27 statement. “This new regulation only escalates the White House’s hostility toward the fossil fuels that power America’s economy. With gas prices already soaring, American families and small businesses now stand to face higher electricity bills, and they have this administration’s policies to thank. This rule is a dramatic overreach and a heavy blow to one of America’s richest natural resources – coal – that the President once heralded but now ignores. Once again, there is an enormous gap between the President’s rhetoric and his actions.”

Boehner noted that in April 2011, the House passed the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910) to prevent the EPA from advancing its “anti-business agenda through costly and burdensome regulations” that would increase utility rates and cost jobs.  In September 2011, the House passed the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act (TRAIN Act; H.R. 2401) to require the administration to examine the cumulative impacts of these and other costly rules on jobs, energy prices and the economy, and to stop the administration from implementing two of the most damaging rules covering coal-fired power plants. The House passed both bills with bipartisan support but they have been blocked by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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.