Proposed EPA Rule: All Pain, No Gain?

This post was originally published by WorkingForNebraska.org, a project of the Nebraska Rural Electric Association. It has been republished with permission.

When it comes to the EPA’s proposed rule on existing power generation, everyone seems to have an opinion. The proposed change to Section 111d of the Clean Air Act is known as the Clean Energy Plan, with much of the EPA’s rhetoric speaking very positively about the propose rule and how the benefits to society far outweigh any negative aspects of implementation. Many do not share the EPA’s perspective on the Clean Energy Plan.

Some believe the proposed rule is going too far, too fast and will most likely raise electricity prices for customers and force reliability concerns. Members of the Nebraska Rural Electric Association will continue to analyze the rule to understand the true costs of compliance.

There are others that are more poignant about their disdain for the EPA’s proposed rule.  Mike Carey, VP of Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp, says the Obama Administration’s rules have already done substantial harm to America’s coal-based fleet, resulting in thousands of lost jobs. Nicolas Loris with the Heritage Foundation states that the new regulation will result in “massive energy attacks that will ripple through the economy, increase direct energy prices for all the goods and services we pay for.” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Edwin Hill says the EPA rule will result in the shuttering of 40 additional gigawatts of coal-generated power by 2020 and the loss of more than 150,000 jobs directly related to the coal industry across the U.S.

So while much of the economic “pain” seems pretty well understood, what about the expected environmental “gain”? Nationwide, the EPA is proposing a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. According to the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity, this proposed CO2 reduction would result in only a 0.02 degree Celsius impact on global temperatures. This small net effect is due in large part to countries like China and India which will not be impacted by EPA regulations and continue to dramatically increase their carbon emissions.

Even among those considered true climate change believers such as John Detwiler, a former professor at Carnegie Mellon University, there is a belief that this proposed rule will have very little environmental benefit. “At best, this timid proposal only begins to recognize that something needs to be done,” says Detwiler.

Almost universally, opponents refer to the EPA’s Clean Energy Plan as “All Pain, No Gain.” During the month of September through October 16, 2014, WorkingForNebraska.org will be urging individuals to provide comments to the EPA opposing the rule primarily on the basis that it goes too far, too fast.  We will also continue to tell the EPA that we need an “all-the-above” energy strategy that does not pick winners and losers, but instead benefits the environment while maintaining affordable and reliable electricity for all Nebraskans. As it is currently drafted, the Clean Energy Plan is not the answer.