Controversy grows over EPA's clean power plan

November 19, 2015

Controversy grows over EPA's Clean Power Plan

Nov 19, 2015, 8:25am EST

Controversy is mounting over the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan.

The plan is designed to reduce carbon outputs from power plants and thereby reduce the United States' impact on global climate change. But its regulatory requirements will force serious changes to occur among those connected to major forms of electrical power generation. Those with an interest in coal and manufacturing, for example, will be greatly impacted.

Samples of shale, left, and bituminous coal.

U.S. Senate Republicans took their ire to congress Tuesday, voting to block the Clean Power Plan from existence. President Obama has said he'll veto the block and force it into law anyway, but that hasn't stopped industries from making their voices heard.


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In Pennsylvania, that's being done by many people and groups, but Wednesday in particular, it was done by the National Mining Association. The NMA released " EPA's Clean Power Plan: An Economic Impact Analysis." Among the group's findings:

  • Pennsylvania’s wholesale power costs will increase by 26 percent;
  • Consumers in Pennsylvania will have paid an additional $9.1 billion for electricity; and
  • Pennsylvania will have an average annual increase of $7,888 in wholesale industrial electricity costs

The report is gloomy -- and contends that the world will get much more expensive and generally gloomier if the Clean Power Plan goes forward: not only will power cost more, but the effects of the plan won't help mitigate climate change much at all.

EPA’s "costly power plan," the report concludes, "forces Americans to forfeit their low cost electricity to serve EPA’s purpose of transforming the nation’s electric grid." Whatever the EPA's claims, it continues, "the financial impact of the (Clean Power Plan) for all consumers of electricity will be significant and should be carefully weighed as states consider how to proceed."


Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, and Jan Jarrett, energy and environmental expert and consultant to KRC, had some thoughts on the report. Among them:

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection "has just finished 14 listening sessions held all around the state to gather input on how to comply with the CPP goals," the two KRC experts wrote to the Business Times. "A public comment period ended on Nov. 12, and DEP is compiling them. Further public comment opportunities will be available when DEP issues its draft plan."

"States are just at the beginning stages of developing their CPP plans," the two KRC experts continued. "It is remarkable that the National Mining Association is able to project the economic impact of plans that don’t actually exist."

In a letter responding to the NMA report, the KRC experts point out:

  • The NMA report "appears to have made very conservative assumptions about technological change, which will drive down the price of electricity from renewable energy and natural gas, as well as potentially increase the savings from conservation."
  • The NMA report is "also pessimistic about technological change with respect to coal, noting that 'no existing plant in the coal power generation plant' can meet the standard set by EPA."
  • The NMA report "completely ignores billions of dollars in health benefits -- $12 billion to $34 billion by 2030 due to reductions in power plant pollution that cause ozone and reductions in particulate matter emitted by power plant."

Read the full NMA report here. Read KRC's responses here.

Matt Stroud is energy reporter for the Pittsburgh Business Times.