MACT and MATS spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E for affordable electricity
In April 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new set of regulations requiring power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) within three years. These regulations are commonly referred to as the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards (“Utility MACT”) or the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (“MATS”) rule -- and they're bad news to those of us trying to keep electricity reliable and affordable.
By many estimates, Utility MACT is one of the most expensive regulatory programs in history, with industry costs totaling in the billions annually. In addition to its high costs, the Utility MACT rule accomplishes too little, requires unrealistic standards to be achieved in an unreasonable time frame, and, if fully implemented, could endanger the nation’s electricity grid while also leading to double-digit electricity rate increases in many states.
And we aren't the only ones saying so. Legal challenges have been filed by 24 states (the most ever for an EPA rule), many utilities companies, and groups ranging from the National Mining Association to the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
On July 20, 2012 – thanks in large part to these lawsuits – the EPA announced it would reconsider components of the MACT rule that apply to new power plants. On April 24, 2013, the EPA revised its rules to make the standards significantly more achievable based on the concerns expressed by power industry leaders.
While these changes were welcomed by new power plants, the EPA has no plan to consider revising requirements for existing power plants -- so there is still a long way to go to convince regulators that those rules should be similarly revised.
The United Mine Workers of America estimates that as many "as 54,000 direct jobs [are] at risk in the utility, mining and rail transport sectors, in addition to 200,000 jobs in related industries and communities impacted by plant closures.”