Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) Responds to Draft MACT Utility Regulations: Energy Capacity, Jobs, and Consumer Costs at Risk

PACE In National Journal: How Will We Power America?
March 10, 2011
PACE in National Journal: Congress Should Pre-Empt EPA Regulations
April 11, 2011

WASHINGTON – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today announced draft rules seeking to impose strict regulations on power plants. The rules, known as the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (or MACT) utility regulations, are some of the most controversial to ever be recommended by the EPA. Lance Brown, executive director of the PACE, wrote this response:

As expected, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced draft rules seeking to set the first-ever national standards for mercury and other air toxins from coal-fired power plants. Everybody wants a clean environment, and the energy providers must be active participants while seeking solutions for the future. Any initiative must also ensure reliable and affordable energy. If the EPA implements these MACT utility regulations, closures of U.S. coal-fired power plants will accelerate sharply during the coming decade and will result in the loss of an estimated one-fifth of our coal-fired capacity. Based on historic performance and industry experience, it will be impossible to permit, engineer, procure, and construct hundreds of new controls. Even if plants could afford to comply with the regulations, many will simply be unable to make the needed adjustments due to age or other complicating factors.

As a result, these regulations will place the jobs and economic input of coal-fired generation at risk, accounting for millions of jobs and constituting a severe threat to household incomes. Industry experts have been warning of the potential for job loss for months, but last week the labor unions publicly agreed, claiming that “roughly half a dozen rules expected to roll out within the next two years could put thousands of jobs in jeopardy.”

Some have claimed that the suite of power-sector regulations will stimulate new investment in technology of various descriptions, creating so-called “green jobs.” While this may be true, heavy regulatory burdens have never been truly conducive to business confidence, investment and job creation. At the very least, flimsy or overly optimistic economic benefit analysis cannot be the basis for risking millions of industrial jobs and billions of dollars in GDP.

We need reasonable regulation that protects health and the environment but also provide reasonable rates and dates. President Obama himself embraced the need to closely scrutinize the cost and economic impact of new agency regulations. His January 18th Executive Order laid out the new review process for regulations, stated that an agency should “tailor its regulations to impose the least burden on society, consistent with obtaining regulatory objectives, taking into account, among other things, and to the extent practicable, the costs of cumulative regulations.” Congress and the EPA should honor the spirit of the President’s position and address the timeframe and content of overlapping rules for the power sector, beginning with these burdensome MACT utility regulations.

The Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) is a coalition of working people, business owners, environmentalists, and trade organizations who are fighting for fair, responsible energy policies.