EPA Releases New Power-Plant Emission Rules

by Greg Pollowitz

WSJ:

WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday finalized a rule that will cap emissions of certain pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

The rule would affect plants in 27 eastern and midwestern states. It included Texas, which was expected to be a late addition and was the subject of last-minute lobbying in recent days.

The rules would require reductions in the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that cross state lines, beginning as early as January 2012. The pollutants react in the atmosphere and contribute to smog and soot, which are linked to health problems, EPA said.

Combined with other pending federal regulations, the rule could lead utilities to close aging coal plants.

Supporters said the rule’s economic and health benefits far outweigh its costs.

“These Clean Air Act safeguards will help protect the health of millions of Americans and save lives by preventing smog and soot pollution from traveling hundreds of miles and contaminating the air they breathe,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a statement.

And the shocker: higher energy prices will follow. Here’s an analysis from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity:

Alexandria, Va. – Two of the EPA’s proposed regulations would be among the most expensive ever imposed by the agency on coal-fueled power plants, dramatically increasing electricity rates and natural gas prices and leading to substantial job losses, according to a new analysis by National Economic Research Associates (NERA).

The analysis was sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), but relies on government data for almost all of its assumptions. NERA projects that EPA’s proposals would result in employment losses of over 1.4 million job-years by 2020 and increase electricity rates by over 23 percent in some areas of the United States. A job-year is one job for one year. In addition, consumers will be paying over $8 billion per year in higher natural gas prices because of the proposed rules.

“EPA’s proposed regulations would be another severe blow to many sectors of our struggling national economy,” said Steve Miller, president and CEO of ACCCE. “The analysis by NERA shows that these would be some of the most expensive EPA rules ever imposed on coal-fueled power plants—costing more than $180 billion, causing double-digit electricity rate increases in many states, and leading to substantial job losses nationwide. Many of these severe impacts would hit families living in states already facing serious economic challenges. Because of these impacts, EPA should make major changes to the proposed regulations before they are finalized.”

NERA analyzed the combined economic impacts of the EPA’s proposed Transport Rule and its Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) requirements for power plants. The analysis projects that the two regulations alone would cost the American electric sector nearly $18 billion per year, making them some of the most expensive EPA regulations ever imposed on power plants and leading to higher electricity rates and lost jobs.

If enacted, the regulations would lead to nationwide employment losses totaling 1.44 million job-years by 2020 and increase Americans’ average electricity bills by 11.5 percent. In some parts of the United States, rates would climb by almost 24 percent.

Earlier this year, ACCCE released a report showing electricity has experienced relatively low price increases since 2001, compared to other energy sources used by American households. Coal currently provides nearly one-half of America’s electricity supply, and has contributed to the relative stability of consumer electricity prices.

For detailed data information on the NERA study, please visit: http://www.americaspower.org/NERA_CATR_MACT_29.pdf