Will EPA’s carbon rules really be so bad?

May 29, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

Gina McCarthy

It’s not surprising to see that the folks over at West Virginia Metro News are parroting the talking points from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to make the greenhouse gas emissions rules the Obama administration is going to announce next week sound like the end of the world.

But if you read the story in today’s New York Times, headlined President Said to Be Planning to Use Executive Authority on Carbon Rule, you sure get a different idea of what major businesses that would be affected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have to say about what’s coming from the administration. For example:

Despite the fierce Republican opposition, a number of officials at electric utilities say they welcome cap-and-trade programs because they offer an affordable and flexible way to comply with the new regulation. “By trading on carbon credits, we’ll be able to achieve significantly more cuts at a lower cost,” said Anthony J. Alexander, president and chief executive of FirstEnergy, an electric utility with power plants in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. “The broader the options, the better off we’re going to be.”

And then there’s this:

John McManus, vice president of environmental services at American Electric Power, which has coal-fired power plants in 11 states, agreed. “We view cap and trade as having a lot of benefits,” he said. “There’s important design considerations that would have to be factored in, to consider each state’s circumstances. But we think it’s definitely worth looking at. It could keep the cost down. It would allow us to keep coal units running for a more extended period. There are a lot of advantages.”

It’s worth remembering that AEP supported the “cap-and-trade” bill that passed the House, but died in the Senate. And the United Mine Workers of America, while never officially endorsing that legislation, did say that the bill  would ensure that the “future of coal will be intact.”

3 Responses to “Will EPA’s carbon rules really be so bad?”

  1. Phil Smith says:

    Ken, it’s important to remember that our statement regarding the Waxman-Markey bill in 2010 was directly related to the billions included in that legislation for developing carbon capture and storage technology on a commercial scale. There will not be anything like that in the upcoming existing source rule from the EPA.

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Thanks for that comment Phil.

    That’s certainly correct. For CCS and coal supporters, those sorts of items were a major selling point for that legislation, and the absence of an ability to put them into an EPA rulemaking is a negative for dealing with climate change that way.

    The opponents of Waxman-Markey in your industry certainly boxed President Obama in on that. One can wonder whether a formal endorsement by the UMWA might have helped give some members of the Senate a little more comfort, and helped move the legislation.

    Perhaps folks, like the UMWA, who support billions for CCS need to be more active on that particular point — rather than allowing the dominant narrative in some parts of the country to be “war on coal” all the time.

    We’ll have another blog post tomorrow looking at what is coming from EPA, and what it means for coalfield communities … and plenty of opportunity for more discussion from anyone who is interested. Ken.

  3. Ted Boettner says:

    Ken,
    You make a crucial and often overlooked point. The decision of West Virginia’s delegation) to not get the best deal for West Virginia when the Waxman-Markely bill was being debated will haunt the state for decades. They could have joined Senators Brown and Casey in support of the *American Worker Transition and Community Assistance Act or they could have insisted that a large portion of the money from cap-trade system go back into West Virginia to get their votes. This could have helped West Virginia have been a much softer landing and helped diversify the economy.

    *http://maplight.org/us-congress/bill/111-s-2742/411697/history

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