The EPA to Oil- and Coal-Fired Plants: Cut Down or Shut Down

Erika Johnsen

12/22/2011 11:33:00 AM - Erika Johnsen

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules on Wednesday that will require the oldest oil- and coal-fired power plants nationwide to cut down on their emissions of mercury and other pollutants, or else be forced to shut down--ostensibly because of the EPA's concern for the public's health.

At a news conference Wednesday at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the regulation was the Obama administration's "biggest clean air action yet", trumping a landmark agreement to double fuel economy standards for vehicles and another rule that will reduce emissions from power plants that foul the air in states downwind. …

In a video released Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama said the decades of delays caused by special interest groups that resulted in standards never being put into place for power plants "was wrong."

"Today, my administration is saying, 'Enough'," he said.

When fully implemented in 2016, the standards will slash mercury pollution from burning coal by 90 percent, lung-damaging acid gases by 88 percent and soot-producing sulfur dioxide by 41 percent.

Power plant operators will have to choose between installing pollution control equipment, switching to cleaner-burning natural gas, or shutting down the plant. None of those choices come cheap -- the EPA estimates the rule will cost $9.6 billion annually, making it one of the most expensive the agency has ever issued. …

In the memorandum, Obama directs the EPA to ensure that implementation of the rule "proceed in a cost-effective manner that ensures electric reliability." ...

The EPA wouldn't know how to "proceed in a cost-effective manner" if their existence depended on it--and most unfortunately for the rest of us, it doesn't, since they're an independent agency with phenomenal, cosmic regulatory power, easily able to mask their political intentions with claims of 'concern for public safety.' And as for the EPA's estimate of $9.6 billion in annual costs... we all know how these 'government estimates' of costs and benefits go. (Hint: "Unexpectedly...") At least Congress's number-one environmentalism-buster isn't letting this go, but if Obama is elected to a second term this November, the EPA's "the beatings will continue until moral improves"-attitude will continue to manufacture these types of ill-thought-out, damaging regulations.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate's environment committee, said he would file a joint resolution, a rarely used Congressional tactic, to get the rule overturned. …

The Edison Electric Institute, whose members were split on the toll of the rule, said in a statement Wednesday that while the EPA "made useful technical changes", it believes "the administration is underestimating the complexity of implementing this rule in such a short period of time." …

The federal government, fail to understand the implications and neighborhood effects of implementing standards for political purposes? Never!

Alas, why is it that a victory for the EPA and a victory for the American economy are almost always and necessarily mutually exclusive? Sigh--it doesn't have to be this way.