EPA holds 12-hour hearings with environmentalists to slow coal production

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
Font Size:

The Environmental Protection Agency held 12 hours of stacked hearings in Washington, D.C. and Chicago on Thursday in favor of a regulation that analysts have concluded would kill the building of new conventional coal plants in the U.S.

Among the participants scheduled to testify in consecutive five minute blocks throughout the day were multiple representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and environmental activists from the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace.

The proposed rule, reported by The Washington Post in March, limits the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by power plants to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. While the EPA is keeping public comments on the regulation open until June 25, the dice have already been cast by the Obama administration against conventional coal plants, fulfilling a January 2008 campaign promise by the president.

“The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour,” the Post reported.

Natural gas — a competitor to coal — and the Sierra Club have had historically close financial ties. Natural gas companies paid the Sierra Club $26 million over four years to battle the coal industry. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune dismissed the connection in a February blog post.

Obama’s own energy policies have also favored the natural gas energy initiatives of major campaign donors, including Warren Buffett, George Soros and T. Boone Pickens.

Hot Air columnist Ed Morrissey wrote that Obama “wants to drive up energy costs in order to make his favored alternatives somewhat competitive, even though none of them can match the production scope of hydrocarbon sources that are found in abundance in the U.S.”

Pickens — a long-time proponent of natural gas — recently dumped his holdings with Chesapeake Bay Energy, a producer of natural gas, stating that “natural gas has been a disaster.”

The Obama campaign’s website added “clean coal” to the president’s energy objectives in early May after House Republicans cited the natural resource’s absence from the president’s list as further proof of the president’s “war on coal.” A recent video by American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coalition promoting coal-fueled electricity, drew attention to Obama’s backing of clean coal only during the campaign season.

The impact of the EPA’s regulation of coal production is more than a political action tied to campaign dollars. Stricter environmental regulation has already begun to adversely impact the economies of states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. GenOn Energy Inc. — a Houston-based energy company with conventional coal plants in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey — announced earlier this year that it would be closing eight plants in the region between 2012 and 2015.

Jerry Tittle, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey, called the plant closings a “victory for our lungs.” A study by the American Lung Association linked airborne toxins from car exhaust to increased rates of asthma in children and adults. A recent Sierra Club study went a step further to suggest that emissions from coal plants are also at fault for asthma.  For Obama, however, the smell of victory has been less than sweet.

States in America’s coal country have already responded harshly against the president, contributing to his dismal performance against a convicted felon in the West Virginia Democratic Primary and “uncommitted” in the Kentucky Democratic Primary.

Avon Lake, Ohio City Councilman Rob James was featured in a separate ACCCE video speaking about the negative impact EPA regulations are having on local economies.

“In Ohio alone, nine other power plants have announced that they will close, representing a loss of 5,870 megawatts,” James said.

“Additional losses will also be felt outside of Ohio,” James added. “In each of these communities, and all the other locations where plants are closing, it will be harder to pay for the schools, hospitals and basic services that will keep communities vibrant and healthy.”

Follow Josh on Twitter