House GOP leaders still demanding data from EPA on toxics rule

Republican leaders of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said April 20 that they continue to press the Obama Administration for a transparent accounting of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently issued Utility MACT rule, also known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).

Despite repeated requests from the committee, the administration has failed to provide an estimate for the total cost of what is expected to be the most expensive rule ever imposed on the U.S. power sector, the Republican leaders on the committee said. Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew to reiterate their previous request for the total projected cost of the rule, consistent with a presidential mandate to quantify anticipated present and future costs and benefits as accurately as possible. 

The committee members cited a recent independent analysis projecting high costs and employment losses under the rule. They said in the letter to the White House, which was a follow-up to a prior letter: “Subsequent to our letter to you, NERA Economic Consulting has published a report estimating the net employment impact of the rule in 2015 to be a loss in income equivalent to 180,000 full-time jobs, inclusive of any job gains associated with installing retrofits and building new power plants. The report estimates present value of Gross Domestic Product losses from 2012 through 2035 would be between $84 and $112 billion dollars. NERA also estimates that EPA’s rule will result in losses in disposable income ranging between $35 [billion] and $71 billion during the period 2012 through 2035.”

The members also stressed that an accurate cost estimate of the Utility MACT/MATS rule is crucial to determining the total cost and consequences of EPA’s multiple power sector rules. Several coal-fired power plants across the country have already been announced for closures and layoffs as a result of EPA’s multiple new regulations, they noted.

“A cost estimate is critical not only for understanding the actual cost of the Utility MACT rule, but also for understanding the cumulative impact of EPA’s full suite of recent and pending regulations affecting the electricity sector,” said the letter. “These regulations include the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule finalized last year as well as other major power sector regulations that EPA has proposed and that will directly regulate existing power plants.”

Multiple parties, including recently the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, have filed legal challenges to the MATS rule at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“The EPA’s MATS rule harms rural electric consumers,” said Ken Anderson, executive vice president and general manager of Tri-State, in an April 13 statement. “The rule was developed in a flawed regulatory process, will impose substantial and unwarranted costs on existing plants, and will effectively prohibit the construction of new coal plants.”

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.