On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to
propose new rules to crack down on power plant emissions, part of
President Barack Obama's efforts to combat global climate change.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will release a report Wednesday
analyzing the effect the yet-to-be-announced regulations will have
on the economy.
Coal industry lobbyists say the new rules will probably raise
household electricity costs, prompt power brown-outs during heat
waves and cold snaps, and destroy jobs at coal mines and
"We fully expect that whatever comes out will be overly stringent,
and will be something that is not good for American consumers or
businesses," said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American
Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
In March, Sheehan’s group, which represents coal mining companies as
well as owners of coal-fired plants like American Electric Power and
Southern Co, released a report warning that the EPA plan might cause
retail electricity prices to rise in 29 states and kill more than
2.85 million jobs.
The National Mining Association, which represents large coal mining
companies including Peabody Coal Co, Arch Coal Inc, Alpha Natural
Resources and Cloud Peak Energy Inc has spent $1 million on a radio
and digital campaign in five states depicting shocked consumers
opening expensive electricity bills.
"Potential EPA regulations on existing power plants could have
far-reaching implications on the American economy," said Matt
Letourneau, a spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce. "The Chamber is
heavily engaged in the rule-making process and is preparing an
To be sure, because the new U.S. rules will take years to be
implemented, the industry's arguments have "the virtue of not being
testable" before the midterm elections, said Andrew Holland, a
former Republican legislative aide who is now an energy analyst at
the American Security Project, a nonpartisan think tank.
Holland said the industry has made similar arguments for previous
EPA rules, arguing they would drive up costs. But in those
instances, the rules have ended up being cheaper than the industry
feared, he said.
"It turns out that engineers are better at this than the lawyers
expect them to be," said Holland.
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Industry groups made their concerns clear to regulators. For
example, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association sent
three of its experts to a White House meeting to show how
not-for-profit co-ops that rely on coal for fuel could be pinched by
the new EPA proposal.
"They obviously are concerned about cost," said Jo Ann Emerson,
chief executive of NRECA, who explained the co-ops provide power to
some of the nation's poorest regions.
And some industry coalitions have said they will try to work with
the EPA and state officials to craft practical rules rather than
flatly oppose them.
After the EPA first said in 2008 that it would treat carbon as a
pollutant, power companies including AES and NRG and manufacturers
including Boeing and 3M formed the National Climate Coalition.
It wants the EPA to phase in standards, and eventually develop rules
for companies and states to trade credits for carbon-reducing
actions, said Robert Wyman, a partner with law firm Latham &
Watkins, who represents the coalition.
The coalition will take at least a week to read and understand the
EPA rule before responding, Wyman said.
"Obviously the more politicized the issue becomes, the more likely
it is that rhetoric will overshadow some of the technical issues,"
(Editing by Caren Bohan and John Pickering)
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