GOP says Obama delaying coal-killing rules until after election

Senate Republicans on Oct. 18 released a 14-page report that outlined what they say are a number of rules impacting the electric utility industry, and coal-fired power in particular, that the Obama Administration is delaying so their impacts won’t hurt the president’s re-election chances in November.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released the report entitled: “A Look Ahead to EPA Regulations for 2013: Numerous Obama EPA Rules Placed On Hold until after the Election Spell Doom for Jobs and Economic Growth.”

This report describes environmental regulations that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama has delayed or “punted on” before the election while the president is trying to earn votes, Inhofe noted.

“President Obama has spent the past year punting on a slew of job-killing EPA regulations that will destroy millions of American jobs and cause energy prices to skyrocket even more,” Inhofe said. “From greenhouse gas regulations to water guidance to the tightening of the ozone standard, the Obama-EPA has delayed the implementation of rule after rule because they don’t want all those pink slips and price spikes to hit until after the election. But President Obama’s former climate czar Carol Browner was very clear about what’s in store for next year: she told several green groups not to worry because President Obama has a big green ‘to-do’ list for 2013 so they’ll get what they want. The radical environmental left may not need to worry but what about hard working Americans who will lose their jobs and be subjected to skyrocketing energy prices thanks to the Obama-EPA?”

He added: “This report also importantly puts the spotlight back on an Obama-EPA that has, as the Washington Post said, earned a ‘reputation for abuse.’ It serves as stark reminder that President Obama has presided over a green team administration that works every day to ‘crucify’ oil and gas companies and make sure that ‘if you want to build a coal plant you got a big problem.’”

Among the delayed rules:

  • Greenhouse Gas Regulations: These regulations – which Obama himself warned would be worse than global warming cap-and-trade legislation – will be an enormous burden on the American people, said the Inhofe statement. These rules will cost $300bn to $400bn a year, and significantly raise the price of gas at the pump and energy in the home. It’s not just coal plants that will be affected, the Inhofe statement added. Earlier this year, EPA proposed the first source specific greenhouse gas regulations – emissions standards for new power plants. “The proposal paints an ominous picture for rate payers: the requirements are so strict they virtually eliminate coal as a fuel option for future electric power generation,” the Inhofe statement said. “In a thinly veiled political move, the agency has put off finalizing the proposal until after the election. Similarly, EPA has punted on standards for existing power plants as well as refineries – standards which will further drive up electricity and gasoline prices.”
  • Ozone Rule: As the New York Times reported last year, President Obama punted on tightening the ozone standard until after the election, admitting that the “regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty” would harm jobs and the economy – but he still pointed to the fact that it will be reconsidered in 2013, the Inhofe statement said. EPA itself estimated that its ozone standard would cost $90bn a year, while other studies have projected that the rule could cost upwards of a trillion dollars and destroy 7.4 million jobs, it added. By EPA’s own projections, it could put 650 additional counties into the category of “non-attainment,” which is the equivalent of posting a “closed for business” sign on communities.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: The Obama Administration – through various federal agencies – is currently working to find ways to regulate hydraulic fracturing at the federal level, so tha it can limit and eventually stop the practice altogether. “In the months following the election, we can expect the EPA alone to: issue guidance for the usage of diesel fuels during hydraulic fracturing, which will strip states of the primacy granted to them through the Safe Drinking Water Act; complete a study – highly criticized and unsupported by multiple state and federal agencies – desperately attempting to link hydraulic fracturing to water contamination in Pavillion, WY; answer countless petitions filed by radical environmental organizations potentially leading to the back-door regulation of hydraulic fracturing through the Toxic Substances Control Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Clean Air Act; and potentially introduce Effluent Limitations Guidelines for both shale gas extraction and coalbed methane,” said the Inhofe statement.
  • EPA’s Water Guidance: EPA’s proposed new guidance document for waters covered by the Clean Water Act, proposed in April 2011, reinterprets recent Supreme Court decisions to allow EPA to expand federal control over virtually every body of water in the United States, no matter how small, said the Inhofe statement.
  • Boiler MACT Rule: EPA’s Boiler MACT standards are so strict that not even the best performing sources can meet them, so many companies will have no choice but to shut their doors and ship manufacturing jobs overseas, said the Inhofe statement. The rule has been projected to reduce U.S. GDP by as much as $1.2bn and will destroy nearly 800,000 jobs. Because of bipartisan Congressional opposition to the standards, the agency is now reconsidering certain aspects of the rule. The new rule is now being held by the White House, presumably until after the election, said the Inhofe statement. “Not only is this creating uncertainty among the regulated community, it is also fueling speculation that very few changes have been made to the rule and that the White House would prefer that it not be made public until after the election,” it added.
  • Cement MACT Rule: EPA’s Cement MACT rule could cause 18 plants to shut down, throwing up to 80,000 people out of work, Inhofe said. As more and more cement has to be imported from China, concrete costs for the construction of roads, bridges, and buildings that use cement could increase 22% to 36%. As with Boiler MACT, due to Congressional opposition, EPA is now reconsidering certain aspects of the rule, which will not be seen until after the election.
  • 316(b) Cooling Towers Rule: EPA is planning to require the use of strict protections for fish in cooling reservoirs for power plants under the Clean Water Act. EPA’s own estimates put the draft rule costs between $384m and $460m per year and have benefits of just $17m – a cost benefit gap of more than 22 to 1, Inhofe said.
  • Coal Ash: EPA’s proposed coal ash rule for power plants could cost $79bn to $110bn over 20 years, destroying 183,900 to 316,000 jobs, Inhofe said. This will have disastrous impacts in states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Missouri.
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.