Critics line up in Congress, states over EPA’s MATS rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, long a punching bag for Republicans in the political fight with the Obama Administration, took some shots April 17 at a hearing in a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing about the new Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (Utility MACT) rule, also known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the committee, said at the hearing that a bipartisan group of 24 state attorneys general, including a quarter of all Democrat state attorneys general, have filed petitions challenging the Utility MACT rule.

“I was pleased to hear that a bipartisan group of attorneys general in twenty four states have filed petitions challenging EPA’s Utility MACT rule – this just goes to show that Democrat Governors are standing up for their constituents while Senate Democrats continue to back the President, even though his EPA’s air rules are specifically designed to kill coal in American electricity generation, destroy up to 1.4 million jobs, and cause electricity rates to ‘necessarily skyrocket,'” Inhofe said. “I applaud Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for standing up for Oklahomans as well as the attorneys general in states with Democrat Governors including Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Wyoming. These governors clearly understand that families in their states will be forced to pay the high costs of the Utility MACT rule, and suffer the consequences of regulations that have a cost/benefit ratio of 1,600 to 1. They know that power plants in their states will shut down and the loss of tax revenue will hurt schoolchildren’s education and reduce emergency services in their communities.”

The April 17 hearing was of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. In his opening statement, Inhofe said that Republicans are for reducing mercury emissions. His Clear Skies Act was the first bill that reduced mercury from coal-fired power plants.

“Unfortunately, Clear Skies was killed by radicals in the environmental movement because it didn’t embrace their global warming agenda,” Inhofe added. “Those opponents included President Obama, who was a member of this Committee at the time. Undeterred by that defeat, in 2005 the Bush Administration sought to issue mercury regulations under the Clean Air Act. But that rule also fell victim to environmental groups’ court challenges.”

The Utility MACT/MATS rule cannot be justified on the merits, Inhofe said. He said that this rule would have minimal health saving to the public related to mercury emissions, so EPA “conjures up additional benefits to fool the public into thinking they are getting a good deal. EPA does this by tallying up the ‘co-benefit’ of additional PM2.5 reductions. In so doing, EPA is conveniently forgetting that it already has in place more cost-effective Clean Air Act mechanisms to reduce PM2.5. Worse still, the agency is claiming benefits from reducing PM2.5 to levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) – even though this air is, by definition, clean.”

Testifying against MATS at the hearing was Jeffrey Holmstead on behalf of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council. He said the rule seems to be more about shutting down coal-fired power plants than cleaning the air.

Susan Dudley, Director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, and Research Professor in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, testified about the health benefits of the MATS rule. “The emissions reductions resulting from MATS rule will do little to reduce children’s exposure to methylmercury, and according to EPA’s estimates, will have an infinitesimally small effect on their IQ and welfare,” Dudley said. “On the other hand, the estimated $9.6 billion per year in costs will be borne by all Americans, who will pay more for electricity and anything that uses it. Not only will the rule increase the cost of heating, air conditioning, food, and other goods and services that contribute to public health, but it will divert scarce resources from much more pressing problems and activities that could contribute to improved health and economic well-being.”

Testifying for MATS was a pediatrician, Jerome Paulson, representing the American Academy of Pediatrics. He said that the MATS rule is long overdue and will save the lives and IQs of children, who are disproportionately impacted by air pollution.

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.