The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose on
Monday new rules to crack down on power plant emissions as part of
President Barack Obama's efforts to combat climate change.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report on Wednesday that
predicted the regulations would cost consumers $289 billion more for
electricity through 2030 and crimp the economy by $50 billion a
The EPA called the report "nothing more than irresponsible
speculation" and said it was based on unfounded assumptions about
future requirements for natural gas plants.
"The chamber is using the same tired play from the same special
interest playbook that is engineered to continue polluting and stall
progress," EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds said in a statement.
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said there is a "moral
obligation" for the new climate change rule.
"Every time America has taken common sense steps to protect air
quality and the health of our children, polluters have made doomsday
predictions – and every time they've been wrong," Lehrich said.
BOTH SIDES ARMED WITH NUMBERS
Industry lobbyists plan to 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
AEP.N and Southern Co SO.N, released a report warning that the EPA
plan may kill more than 2.85 million jobs.
The National Mining Association, which represents large coal mining
companies including Peabody Coal Co, Arch Coal Inc ACI.N, Alpha
Natural Resources ANR.N and Cloud Peak Energy Inc CLD.N has spent $1
million on advertising in five states depicting shocked consumers
opening expensive electricity bills.
Environmental groups plan to fight back with their own projections.
On Thursday, the Natural Resources Defense Council is expected to
release a report concluding the EPA rule would create "hundreds of
thousands of jobs" and save consumers "tens of billions of dollars"
"The chamber's so-called study is the latest in a long series of
'sky-is-falling' claims that cleaning up harmful air pollution will
cost jobs," said David Hawkins, director of NRDC's climate programs.
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Because the new U.S. rules would take years to implement, perception
matters more than facts, particularly ahead of November elections,
said Andrew Holland, a former Republican legislative aide who is now
an energy analyst at the American Security Project, a nonpartisan
The industry's arguments have "the virtue of not being
testable" before the midterm elections, he said, noting previous EPA
rules have ended up being cheaper than industry feared.
"It turns out that engineers are better at this than the lawyers
expect them to be," said Holland.
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 and provide power
to some of the nation's poorest regions could be pinched by the new
And some industry coalitions have said they will try to work with
the EPA and state officials to craft practical rules.
After the EPA first said in 2008 that it would treat carbon as a
pollutant, power companies including AES AES.N and NRG NRG.N and
manufacturers including Boeing BA.N and 3M MMM.N formed the National
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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