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EPA regs shutter two more coal plants

High costs associated with stricter federal environmental regulations and increased competition from low-priced natural gas have shut down two coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania.

FirstEnergy Corp. will close the coal plants by October 9, according to Reuters, due to weak power prices.

Another factor is the high cost of complying with the Environmental Protection agency’s Mercury Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, which would require the company to spend $275 million at the two plants.

These two Pennsylvania plants add to the already 15,000 megawatts of coal-fired power that have been taken offline since President Barack Obama came into office in 2009. Most of that reduction in energy availability has come through tougher environmental regulations and cheap natural gas.

Reuters reports that more than 37,000 megawatts of coal-fired power is slated for shutdown in the next ten years or so.

The Obama administration recently came under fire from industry and Republicans for targeting the coal industry with a slew of new regulations aimed at curbing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, which environmentalists say contribute to global warming.

“[Obama] is personally responsible for the loss of thousands of jobs. He obviously does not have much interest in states like Kentucky, Tennessee and Wyoming, where the coal industry is so vitally important and we are losing jobs dramatically,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield.

The administration has denied allegations that it is waging a “war on coal.”

The president “expects fossil fuels, and coal specifically, to remain a significant contributor for some time,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told Reuters. It is “all about having, in fact, coal as part of that future. I don’t believe it is a ‘war on coal.’”

However, statements made by the administration’s advisers have coal supporters alleging the new global warming push is part of a larger effort to cripple the industry.

“If the Obama administration fails to recognize the environmental progress the industry has made and continues to adopt more regulations, coal power could cease to exist, which would be devastating for our economy,” said Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

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