|Critics attack EPA's new carbon-cutting plan|
|Tuesday, June 03, 2014 8:01 PM|
dhi MEDIA STAFF and WIRE REPORTS
The announcement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules designed to cut carbon output by America’s power plants has been greeted with sharp disagreements by local governmental representatives. The plan is billed as an attack on global warming, but detractors say it will make electric bills skyrocket. State lawmakers have already introduced legislation to try to limit any impact in Ohio.
“Today’s proposed rule by President Obama to cap carbon emissions at existing U.S. power plants is complex and costly, and will result in job loss and higher electricity costs for consumers. In many ways, it mirrors cap and trade proposals rejected by Congress,” stated U.S. Senator Rob Portman.
Portman continued, “The proposed rules must be carefully scrutinized so we can understand how it will impact the reliability and security of our nation’s electric grid. EPA regulations have already had an impact on electricity generation in Ohio. In fact, companies have already announced that 41 electric-generating units in Ohio will retire or convert to another fuel source by 2015. When President Obama outlined his top-down, one-size-fits-all EPA proposals two years ago, many of us in Ohio urged him not to expand the EPA’s regulatory overreach. Unfortunately, today we learned that he has chosen to double-down on his federal mandate approach. By doing so, he is ignoring the pleas of Ohio businesses, manufacturers and consumers who will be forced to pay the price of his costly proposed standards for new and existing power plants. Unfortunately, these EPA regulations will cost Ohio jobs and hurt consumers.”
“This regulation is another attack on low-cost, reliable energy that will cost thousands of U.S. jobs, make electricity more expensive and curb economic growth,” said Congressman Bob Latta. “The EPA’s latest billion-dollar regulation on existing power plants is an unprecedented regulatory intrusion with far-reaching consequences for the American people.”
According to the Energy Institute of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the new regulations could result in the loss of 224,000 jobs in this country each year, cut into disposable household income by more than $586 billion by the year 2030 and increase electricity expenditures by more than $289 billion by 2030.
Meanwhile, Ohio lawmakers are out to try to limit the impact of the proposal in the Buckeye State. According to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, 69.7 percent of the state’s power are generated by coal-fired plants. Natural gas plants account for 15.16 percent of power in the state, while nuclear is the source for 11.76 percent.
Ohio legislators are expected to act quickly this week on a bill to do just that. States may get several years to submit plans to cut pollution under the rule, which is a key part of President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce pollution linked to global warming.
An Ohio bill whose sponsor cites bipartisan support would require that any power-plant performance plan Ohio submits to the federal government protect the affordability and reliability of electricity and minimize effects on industrial, commercial and residential consumers. A committee of lawmakers is scheduled to vote on the measure Tuesday and it is likely to be considered by the full House soon thereafter.
“It’s kind of a delicate dance because the Ohio EPA has to reconcile itself to what the federal EPA is doing,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Andy Thompson of Marietta. “But within that context, we just want to make sure that Ohio asserts the control that we can.”
Thompson said it is destructive to the Appalachian communities he represents in eastern Ohio every time a coal-fired power plant shuts down because the area remains heavily dependent on coal jobs.
The federal proposal calls for Ohio, which gets two-thirds of its electricity from coal, to reduce pollution by 28 percent compared with 2012 levels.
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler said the agency needs to fully understand what that means.
“We are, of course, concerned with anything that could hurt Ohio’s economy at a time when we are just beginning to get back on track,” Butler said in a statement.
Kasich’s spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Obama’s plan was announced Monday, days after Ohio’s Legislature voted to put Ohio’s renewable and advanced energy standards on hold for two years as a legislative committee studies the issue. Kasich has said he’ll sign that bill.
Environmental and clean energy advocates say renewables could help Ohio meet the pollution reduction target and that shying away from that is a step in the wrong direction, one that might push the state more toward natural gas to fuel power.
“At a time when many other states are moving forward with investments in clean energy, renewables and energy efficiency, Ohio is moving backward,” said Steve Frenkel, Midwest director for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who was in office when Ohio’s renewable energy standards were enacted, said before the federal plan was released that he thinks it is achievable and necessary for creating a healthier environment. But he said he will urge the Obama administration and Congress to be sensitive to the proposal’s effects on coal mine and power plant employees and their communities.
“I know there’s going to be cries of doom and gloom,” said Strickland, president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of a Washington think tank. “Utilities are going to say it’s going to cost us so much money and rates are going to go up, and, you know, we’re going to hear the same kind of special interests complaining that usually accompanies any effort to improve our environment in any way.”
Environmental advocates say the plan will protect people’s health, lead to innovation and boost the economy. Energy groups and other opponents contend it will have negative economic effects, pointing to a potential cost of billions of dollars to carry out the plan.
Portman noted, “Americans support a cleaner environment, but time and time again, they have rejected policies that require handcuffing our economy in exchange for vague environmental promises. Rather than unilaterally establishing burdensome regulations on the backs of Ohio’s coal miners and electricity consumers, the President should work with Congress to promote a consensus-based energy plan that utilizes all of the abundant domestic resources at our disposal — including cleaner burning of coal, natural gas, nuclear, energy efficiency, and renewable resources — to lower energy costs and ensure we have access to reliable, affordable, and cleaner domestic energy. In addition, I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to find a path forward to get my bipartisan energy efficiency legislation over the finish line. It is an example of an energy policy that is good for jobs, good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for Ohio taxpayers.”
“(With this plan) coupled with the EPA’s new source regulations proposed last fall, the coal industry is on a path toward early extinction. This will be especially harmful in places like Ohio where 70 percent of our power comes from coal and we’ve already lost 41 units to early retirement or conversion as a result of previous regulations.”