Obama’s War on Coal


President Obama claims to see the need to create jobs at this time of endless 9-plus percent unemployment — yet his administration continues to relentlessly destroy jobs for ideological reasons. The best example may be the Obama Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on coal.”

The EPA’s regulatory crusade directly threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs — and “rolling blackouts” that threaten even more.

Start with a proposed regulation under the Clean Air Act that’s set to be finalized in November. The Utility MACT (“Maximum Achievable Control Technology”) rule seeks to cut US power plants’ emissions of mercury from 29 tons a year to just five. Yet EPA itself estimates that cutting even as much as 41 tons out of total emissions of 105 tons “is unlikely to substantially affect total risk.”

For zero benefit, the Utility MACT is one of the most expensive federal regulations ever. In comments submitted to the EPA, Unions for Jobs and the Environment, an alliance of unions representing more than 3.2 million workers, estimated that this needless regulation would jeopardize 251,000 jobs.

Then there’s EPA’s out-of-the-blue ruling last month, ordering Texas to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide by 47 percent. This, when the draft version of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule had exempted the state entirely. The excuse for the change? A supposed need to slightly reduce emissions as monitored 500 miles away in Madison County, Ill. — a locale that meets the EPA air-quality standards in question.

And the EPA only gave Texas just six months to comply — when it takes three years to build the necessary controls. Particularly hard-hit will be Luminant, the largest merchant power producer in Texas, which relies on high-sulfur coal: It says “curtailing plant and/or mine operations will be the only option” to meet the EPA’s “unprecedented and impossible compliance timetable.” Jonathan Gardner, a vice president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, warns that the rule directly threatens 1,500 employees at six different power plants across Texas.

The EPA is also attacking coal mining, by (for example) trying to stop the technique known as mountaintop removal. Endless environmentalist lawsuits have lost in the courts, but the Obama EPA now claims that salt runoff from the process violates the Clean Water Act because it harms a short-lived insect (not an endangered species) — and has proposed a rule that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson concedes would effectively outlaw an industry that employs more than 15,000 miners in Appalachia.

These are just a few examples of a host of unjustified EPA measures targeted at coal. The obvious goal is to seize any excuse to make coal power more expensive — eventually, as then-candidate Barack Obama put it to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008, to “bankrupt” the coal industry.

Yet coal has long been the most affordable source of electricity generation in America; it provides almost 50 percent of this nation’s power. Team Obama’s actions guarantee higher US electricity prices — which will push up the costs of every business in America.

That means more lost jobs. A recent report from the Edison Electric Institute found that the Obama administration’s air-quality policies alone could force the retirement of up to 90,000 megawatts of coal power, and require $200 billion in retrofits by 2020.

The loss of that much power production makes brownouts and “rolling blackouts” a virtual certainty in some regions of the country — notably, the industrial heartland.

Bottom line: For the sake of the US economy, Congress needs to put an end to Obama’s war on coal.