The Obama administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a war against the coal industry, releasing a plan to implement New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), that would force coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon emissions by unattainable amounts with currently commercially available technology. This plan would create far-reaching regulations and would cripple the coal industry.
Technology has rapidly evolved over the last two decades, allowing for much cleaner and more efficient methods of energy production from coal. Power companies have already spent tens of millions of dollars on upgrading existing coal-fired facilities in order to meet current standards, resulting in dramatic pollution reductions.
Requiring technology standards that are aligned with best-in-class, low emission technologies has proven to be effective in reducing carbon emissions without resulting in price spikes for consumers.
But for the EPA, the best is not good enough. Their new NSPS rule proposes to set emissions standards so extreme that they are unattainable with existing technology. It’s clear the objective of the NSPS standards is not to achieve cleaner-burning coal power plants (which has already been accomplished), but to prohibit any new coal generators from being built at all.
The EPA coal warriors are in lockstep with the environmental groups that have made it their mission to end coal development.
Their success in this foolish war would result in a number of tragedies. Foremost, at risk are hundreds of thousands of jobs supported by the American coal industry.
Those are good, high-wage, career-track jobs that won’t be replaced by even the most zealous of taxpayer-funded alternative energy schemes.
Beyond the jobs, the NSPS rules would result in an immediate cessation of most research and development into new coal technology. That means that the best scientist and engineers in the world, those right here in America, would be effectively pulled from the game on the most important technical challenge faced by the world. The Obama administration would rather leave it to the Chinese to come up with this technology on their own.
The proposed NSPS regulations would severely limit the diversity of our national energy portfolio. We’ve already seen the effects limiting the sources of our energy — recently Montana State University Billings had to shut down campus for a day due to a natural gas shortage, caused in large part to the national switch from coal to gas for electricity production. If we take more coal off the grid in the future, these types of energy crises will become more common.
And by limiting our energy sources from low-cost sources like coal, we’ll see significant price increases on consumers. Considering that over half of Americans, mostly low-income, already pay over 20 percent of their disposable income on energy, any increase in energy prices will hit Americans hard. And prices spikes of this nature would be extraordinarily harmful for Montana, where coal provides over 60 percent of the state’s electricity.
In response to public outcry over the proposed regulations, the EPA has launched a series of listening sessions to gather public opinion and ideas. This creates an opportunity for members of the public and other stakeholders to let the government know what’s up. We need to take advantage of this opportunity and put a stop to this extreme regulation before it is too late. To comment on the proposal you can go two www2.eps.gov/carbon-pollution-standards and click on the comment link on the right hand side of the page.
The EPA needs to know that enough is enough. With new technology emerging — technology that allows us to generate electricity in a way that addresses both the economic and the environmental interests of America — there is more than one way to create a cleaner nation.
We all benefit from having access to affordable and reliable electricity provided by local coal energy.
If the EPA truly has America’s best interest at heart, then they would search for a solution that protects the environment without damaging the American economy and bringing an entire industry to a standstill.
Sen. Fred Thomas serves in the Montana State Legislature for Senate District 45. Sen. Thomas is the vice chairman of the Senate Taxation Committee and is a member of the Senate Fish and Game Committee, Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee. He also serves as president of the Montana Business Leadership Council.