Supreme Court Gets One Right, but War on Coal Continues
By Blayne Yudis
The Supreme Court dealt a blow to a key piece of the Obama administration’s war on coal agenda earlier this week. The case, Michigan v EPA, concerned the EPA’s initial limits on mercury emitted by coal-fired plants.
The Court found in a 5-4 ruling that the EPA should have taken costs into account prior to deciding to issue regulations, the costs of which total about $10 billion per year, according to the EPA’s own estimates, are about two thousand times their claimed benefits from reducing mercury emissions. The Supreme Court remanded the rule back to the DC Circuit, and it is not yet clear if it will be vacated while the EPA seeks to conduct the now-required cost justification.
But ironically, the administration may choose to simply withdraw the rule as a temporary strategic retreat in its war on coal. That’s because one of the best defenses against the EPA’s disastrous greenhouse gas regulations contained in the White House’s so-called Clean Power Plan is that they were pre-empted by the mercury rule. If it’s no longer in effect, that could pave the way for a legal victory on greenhouse gases, the crown jewel in the war on coal agenda.
A recent study conducted by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a non-profit advocacy group, assessed the impact of energy costs on households, on a state-by-state scale. Key findings found that higher energy prices, caused by EPA policies, would harm lower-income and middle income families in every state. Just the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations were projected to increase electricity prices from 10 percent in Kansas to a whopping 20 percent in Utah. Of the 350,000 lower-income and middle-income families in Utah, the average household takes home nearly $2,000 a month, about $24,000 a year, and spends 14 percent of that income on energy. Under the proposed EPA policies, electricity rates would increase by 20 percent, forcing households to choose between paying more for energy or other basic necessities such food, shelter, and federally-mandated healthcare.
The cost increases would affect everyone. An additional study conducted by the National Black Chamber of Commerce and released last week found that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would increase black poverty by 23 percent and extinguish 7 million jobs for black Americans by 2035. Hispanic poverty would increase 26 percent and cause 12 million lost jobs for Hispanic Americans by 2035. At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing last week, National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford, explained that “The EPA’s proposed regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants is a slap in the face to poor and minority families.”
I hail from the great state of Pennsylvania, where, according to the ACCCE study, 17 percent of a family’s income is spent on energy. My family is modest and middle-class by definition. Under the EPA’s proposed rules, we would expect to see a 14 percent increase in electricity rates alone. For a family with three children, two of which attend college, this is a real hardship.
The federal government has constantly put economic pressure on decent, hard-working families, such as mine, and for what purpose? I can understand the concern for our environment, and I understand that limited regulation of these corporations is necessary, but what I cannot understand and will not put up with is the systematic squandering of middle-class earnings in the service of an ideological agenda. People are struggling to make ends meet and higher energy prices will only further suffocate their economic well-being.
In a letter to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.VA.), an opponent of the EPA plan, Ammar Inc., a family-owned company, wrote, “There was a time when your greatest obstacle was your competitor… Unfortunately that is now not the case… The Largest impediment we have to operating our business successfully is our own government, particularly, the EPA. The rulings issued by the EPA have devastated our regional economy.”