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The President's Rhetoric on Coal does not Match His Record


Location: Washington, DC

If the President made an effort to promote a true all-of-the-above energy plan, the Administration would not have to spend so much time defending his record on coal.

A spokeswoman recently remarked that the President "is working every day to make America more energy-independent, and ensuring that coal has a future in our energy mix is a part of that effort." His energy adviser has proclaimed, "The [Environmental Protection Agency] is not focused on killing jobs. What they're doing is focusing on creating a pathway for clean coal."

The Administration can wrap its energy policies in as many reassuring terms as it would like to, but this "pathway" is carrying coal right out of the marketplace.

Four prominent regulations proposed in the last three years will raise energy prices for consumers and destroy jobs: the Utility and Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Rules, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), and the reclassification of coal combustion residues (CCRs, or "coal ash") as hazardous waste.

Taken together, these mandates impose eye- and wallet-popping costs. According to the EPA's own estimates, the Utility MACT regulation will cost $11 billion a year, CSAPR will cost a minimum of $2.4 billion a year, and the coal ash regulation will cost $1.5 billion a year. Some consider the EPA estimates overly optimistic -- for example, the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners estimates that the Boiler MACT regulation may cost as much as $14.3 billion.

These regulatory costs represent just a fraction of the burden the EPA is placing on the energy industry. In 2011 alone, this Administration proposed hundreds of energy regulations, costing an estimated $97 billion to implement.

Increased regulatory costs mean higher electricity prices and fewer jobs. A study from National Economic Research Associates found the Utility MACT regulation would increase electricity and energy costs by $170 billion and eliminate 183,000 jobs per year from 2012 to 2020. Additionally, a report by IHS/Global Insight determined that the Boiler MACT regulation would put 800,000 jobs in jeopardy.

Each of these regulations threatens American jobs in order to mandate limits on emissions already at historically low levels and in some cases beyond what is technologically possible. The Utility and Boiler MACT regulations aim to aggressively suppress emissions of hazardous air pollutants -- many of which have already dropped by half or more in the last three decades, as detailed in a recent American Legislative Exchange Council report. Additionally, CSAPR is designed to reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are already at historic lows.

Also, the EPA has already determined on multiple occasions, most recently in 2000, that there is no scientific reason to designate coal ash as a hazardous waste. The science has not changed.

The high costs of regulation and the questionable scientific backing are why Congress needs more oversight and accountability over this process. Passed in December in the House, the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would be a good start by requiring congressional approval of regulations that cost more than $100 million. The REINS Act would take control away from unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in the EPA, and make Congress directly accountable for the most costly regulations the federal government produces.

Passing the REINS Act in the Senate and signing it into law are actions that would speak louder than the White House's words.

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