The fight against the crippling regulations imposed by Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency on the coal industry is ratcheting to a higher level now that the regulations are soon to be imposed. Obama has said he wants to reduce emissions by 17% by 2020, calling for an end to the country’s “limitless dumping of carbon pollution.”
The new regulations will severely limit carbon dioxide emission from already existing coal plants as well as limit emissions on new plants. In addition, the new regulations will force all the plants to adhere to “commercially feasible” clean-energy technologies, a prospect so grim that even West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin described them as “impossible” to achieve.
In 2012, U.S. coal production dropped to its lowest level in almost twenty years. The prospective loss of jobs is huge; economist Nicolas Loris of the Heritage Foundation said coal industry jobs will fall by 600,000 jobs by 2023. He added, “It’s going to significantly cripple our economy. It will reduce household income as people are forced to spend more money on their energy bills. Anyway you shake this it’s a no-win for our economy.” He concluded by telling Newsmax, “Now that it’s starting to become a reality and the war on coal is really coming, I do think you’ll see more opposition.”
Last week both of Kentucky’s senators and five GOP congressman from the state filed a friend-of-the-court brief challenge in the Supreme Court to the EPA’s authority to regulate coal plants, saying the EPA went too far applying a 2007 Supreme Court decision that allowed it to regulate greenhouse gases.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky stated, “The president and the EPA have been misusing the 2007 ruling and subsequent regulations on automobiles to overregulate new and existing coal-fired power plants out of business, thus escalating their war on coal and Kentucky jobs.” Senator Rand Paul echoed that the issue was “an egregious example of the EPA’s violation of the law in pursuit of its overzealous, anti-coal agenda. The ability to create laws is the purview of Congress and the EPA has clearly overstepped its authority. In doing so, accountability has been thrown out the window and Kentucky families are left with nothing but frustration and the likelihood of even higher energy costs and more job losses.”
Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) in Washington, noted the inequity of the Obama policy vis-à-vis the rest of the world, saying:
The most immediate result of these regulations will all but put a de facto ban on new coal plants being built in this country. It’s interesting that the administration is hell bent on stopping the use of coal here when we have the lowest emission rates when compared with other countries around the world. With these closures, and new and incredibly stringent regulations proposed, we expect more people will be put out of work, more coal plants will be closed, and it will surely make electricity more expensive and cause great unreliability. People can expect to see higher prices and also rolling brownouts and blackouts.
Loris corroborated her statement, asserting, “India and China are building so many coal-fired power plants, increasing greenhouse gas at such blistering clips. These regulations aren’t going to do anything and the amount we reduce in global emissions is going to be negligible.” He added that there is bipartisan support in Congress for challenging the regulations, noting that some Democrats who are members of the House Energy Committee are also strongly opposed to the new regulations.
Loris also stated that the fight will be waged from more than one source. He said:
I think the war will be fought on two fronts. You’re going to see a lot of legal challenges and I think a lot of state attorneys general bringing litigation forward to say it’s not the role of the EPA, questioning the legality of these regulations. I think you’re also going to see a lot of grassroots movement once these EPA rules are finalized. It’s hard to motivate people because it’s a long and drawn out process, hard to mobilize a fight. But now that it’s starting to become a reality and the war on coal is really coming, I do think you’ll see more opposition, not only in places like Kentucky and West Virginia, but the Midwest. There are so many states where coal provides a majority of the electricity.