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Wicker Challenges President's Regulatory War on Coal


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Despite a weak economy and high unemployment, the Obama Administration continues to push for regulations that would put more Americans out of work -- with minimal benefits. Excessive rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) affecting coal-fired power plants pose serious threats to America's economic competitiveness.

Coal is used to satisfy 20 percent of total energy demand in America, and it generates 42 percent of our electricity. EPA's regulatory assault on coal will not diminish the influence of foreign energy producers or bring down prices for families and businesses. Instead of job-killing regulations, President Obama should make good on his "all of the above" energy promises -- rather than dismiss America's most affordable and abundant resources.

Redundant Regulation

Last week, I voted to overturn one of EPA's most expensive regulations, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule, or Utility MACT. Utility MACT would make emissions standards so strict that power plants across the country could be forced out of business. According to the National Economic Research Associates, it will cost 180,000 to 215,000 American jobs by 2015.

Utility MACT duplicates other regulations that are already in place and working. It seeks to control particulate matter, which is already limited under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of the Clean Air Act. The rule would cost an estimated $10 billion annually -- although EPA only forecasts up to $6 million in measurable benefits.

"Skyrocketing' Electricity Rates

Regulations like Utility MACT highlight President Obama's mission to eliminate coal from America's energy market. During his campaign, the President said "electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket" because of his proposals. Last year, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called the President's regulatory agenda a way to "level the playing field" -- suggesting that EPA can pick winners and losers at the expense of America's energy security.

Utility MACT, coupled with other rules, has already forced dozens of coal-fired power plants across the country to shut down. Many more are at risk because they cannot afford to modernize, and building new facilities would be impossible because of emissions limits set below levels that can be monitored accurately. Coal generates power critical to ensuring reliable electricity service, so officials from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are worried about the adverse impact that shutdowns could have on the power grid and public safety.

Unfair Burden on Americans

Removing coal from domestic production is unfair to American consumers, who will ultimately bear the burden of unnecessary regulation through higher electricity costs. One report forecasts that parts of the country could see electricity prices rise by as much as 19 percent because of new EPA rules, including Utility MACT. Another estimate says Utility MACT and three other EPA regulations would reduce annual average disposable income by $34 billion from 2012 to 2020. This is money that families will not be able to spend on other important priorities.

Securing a productive and reliable energy plan requires reining in EPA rules like Utility MACT. Our focus should be on efficient and safe ways to utilize America's abundant resources -- not ridiculous regulatory decisions that hurt jobs and block affordable energy.

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