The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a mandate requiring a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions at “fossil fuel-burning” power plants by 2030, a move that essentially will shut down many if not most of such plants. The new EPA emission regulations have renewed allegations that the Obama administration is embroiled in a war on coal – and that it will be detrimental to America’s power supply.
The highly controversial coal plant regulations are detailed in a 645-page plan that is expected to be finalized early next year. The Obama administration considers the fossil fuel mandates the “centrepiece” of the president’s climate change agenda. President Obama is also reportedly hoping that the coal emissions plan will prompt other countries to follow America’s lead during international treaty negotiation in 2015.
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy called the coal plant emissions regulations necessary for the future of the country and added, “We have a moral obligation to act. Coal provides nearly 40 percent of America’s power supply, and many are warning that America is not ready to replace that energy.
Democratic lawmakers in coal country which supported President Obama during his campaign are now coming under fire from their constituents. Without the significant paychecks from the coal industry, thousands of families in impoverished areas of Kentucky, Ohio, and especially West Virginia, will face certain struggle. Some states will reportedly be permitted to emit more carbon than others, but overall the reduction amount hovers around 30 percent.
“The President’s own Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that coal will continue to provide nearly a third of our electricity through 2040, but the rule seems to ignore that reality,” said US Senator Joe Manchin (D.-West Virginia). “The EPA has proposed rules that are not based on any existing technology that has been proven on a commercial scale.”
The EPA coal regulations come on the heels of a wide-sweeping wood stove ban and unprecedented Clean Water Act proposed rules. Small farmers, ranchers, and other Americans concerned with continuing their low-cost or off-the-grid lifestyle are feeling quite a pinch due to the mounting federal mandates coming down the pike.
In February, an official within the Department of Energy said electricity rates in coal areas could rise by 70 to 80 percent, as plants close. Coal state lawmakers in both political parties are busy drafting legislation to halt the mandate. The war on coal was one of the primary focuses of GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s speeches when he toured Ohio and the surrounding states during the 2012 campaign. Coal miners who admitted to voting Democrat for the bulk of their lives were often seen waving signs in support of Romney during political events and campaign stops.
West Virginia Democratic Representative Nick Rahall is introducing a bill, along with Republican peer David McKinley, in an effort to halt the EPA coal emissions plan. “We will introduce bipartisan legislation that will prevent these disastrous new rules from wreaking havoc on our economy in West Virginia,” Rahall said.
Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett does not support President Obama’s plan, either. “[I am] certain that it will be very bad news for states like Kentucky who mine coal and use coal to create electricity,” Bissett said.
Kentucky Senator and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell deemed the EPA coal emissions regulations a “dagger in the heart of the American middle class.”
States will have until 2017 to approve a plan that will cut pollution from power plants. If states join together to tackle the matter, they get a one-year extension before penalties kick in. Environmental Protection Agency statistics indicate that power plants in the United States have successfully reduced carbon dioxide levels by about 13 percent since 2005.
“Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has adopted a ‘my way or the highway’ approach, and that explains why he’s shoving these EPA regulations down our throat,” said Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus. “The US Chamber of Commerce has found that each year this regulation will kill 224,000 jobs and force energy rates to skyrocket, so it’s no wonder President Obama is circumventing Congress to implement his latest job-killing regulation.”
Choices that the EPA and the Obama administration have offered states with coal plants include reducing the amount of energy such facilities supply to the power grid, investing in renewable and low-carbon energy sources, and establishing “pollution-trading markets” with other states in order to “offer more flexibility in how plants cut emissions.” Such a proposal often is a form of “cap and trade.”