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While coal has become a central issue in the presidential campaign, Members of Congress will soon have an opportunity to slam the brakes on a great threat to American families and our economic recovery — the Environmental Protection Agency’s continuing war against the nation’s dominant source of electricity.
Within the next two weeks, the Senate is expected to vote on a resolution that would halt an EPA rule that would destroy jobs and make energy much more expensive for millions of American families and businesses. The joint resolution of disapproval, filed under the Congressional Review Act by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), would stop implementation of the EPA’s Utility MACT Rule, one part of the EPA’s ongoing assault on coal-fueled electricity.
Many experts agree that America’s access to electricity from coal is threatened under the bevy of new EPA rules. A recent Bloomberg Government analysis concluded EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions rule “would guarantee that as older coal-fired power plants retire, conventional plants wouldn’t replace them.” In other words, this regulation would effectively preclude building new coal-fueled power plants in the U.S. At the EPA and in many environmental special interest groups, this may be a cause for celebration. But in homes and communities around the United States, it should be cause for alarm.
The damage caused by the EPA’s war on coal will be dramatic and long-felt.
Thanks to the EPA, many Americans will lose their jobs. Coal is directly responsible for more than half a million U.S. jobs and indirectly responsible for millions more. These aren’t just mining jobs; they are railroad jobs, manufacturing jobs and small-business jobs that depend on affordable, reliable electricity.
A study for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity by National Economic Research Associates found that just four of the recent EPA rules would destroy more than 180,000 American jobs per year through 2020. Weathering this economy is difficult enough for most workers without government policies destroying their jobs.
Thanks to the EPA, electricity prices for millions of families and businesses are in the process of dramatic increases, with monthly utility bills experiencing the same surges that Americans often see at the gas pump. For years, coal has helped keep electricity prices stable and affordable. A recent analysis for ACCCE found that because coal has provided nearly half of America’s electricity, the price of electricity has actually declined over the past 10 years when adjusted for inflation.
Now that utilities will be forced to reduce their coal consumption because of the EPA’s regulatory regime, there is less protection for consumers from price fluctuations. Bloomberg’s analysis correctly points out that natural gas prices have been volatile in the past and spikes in gas prices lead to higher energy costs. This is especially harmful to low-income Americans. According to a February study commissioned by ACCCE, the 1 in 10 families in our nation who earn less than $10,000 per year devote more than 70 percent of their after-tax income to energy. Higher utility prices just make it more likely that these families — and many others — will have to make even tougher decisions.
Fortunately, Americans don’t have to be held captive by the EPA. The courts can act to overturn these needlessly damaging regulations, and so can Congress. It was encouraging that even in a charged partisan environment, 221 Democratic and Republican House Members sent a letter to the White House earlier this year demanding changes to the most recent set of EPA power plant regulations. And now, the full Senate will be able to vote on a resolution to disapprove (and thereby nullify) the Utility MACT Rule. Under the Senate rules, the resolution only needs 51 votes for passage and then the matter would proceed to the House for similar consideration.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for an “all of the above” energy plan. Unfortunately, the regulatory regime being pushed by the EPA is diametrically opposed to that rhetoric. American families and businesses need affordable, reliable energy to fuel greater economic prosperity and more energy independence. Coal must continue to play a vital role in that clean energy future.
Steve Miller is president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.