Pennsylvania’s utilities, coal companies, their employees and ratepayers are bracing for the publication of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule on greenhouse-gas emissions set for this summer.
On behalf of my 120 employees and their families, I am hopeful that the EPA will consider the 1.6 million comments submitted during the open comment period, including those of opposition from Pennsylvania’s lawmakers and its Public Utility Commission and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The DEP forecasts the rule will cut coal consumption by Pennsylvania’s electric utilities by about 70 percent. This reduction will impact the 36,000 jobs statewide that coal supports, the more than $4 billion it provides to Pennsylvania’s economy annually and the baseload electricity necessary to keep rates low and attract businesses and manufacturing to the commonwealth.
I applaud Congressman Mike Kelly, R-Butler, for considering these impacts on his constituents by co-sponsoring the Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015 introduced last month by Congressman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. This act would allow governors to reject the EPA’s Clean Power Plan if they determine that it will adversely affect their states’ price of electricity or electric reliability — which it will.
While the EPA promises there will be enough electricity to maintain demand, the actual grid operators and utilities have publicly opposed these rules, stating there is not enough time to develop sufficient resources and the plan will result in double-digit rate increases.
The cost of replacing this lost capacity will be passed on to the consumer. There are 2.4 million middle- to low-income families in Pennsylvania that spend almost 20 percent of their after-tax income on energy. This is not a Republican or Democrat, industry or environment issue. This will affect every ratepayer and business owner in the commonwealth.
The EPA is facing lawsuits and opposition from governors, attorneys general, public utility commissions and departments of environmental quality in 22 states. To date, this is the foremost demonstration of federal overreach, with a forced state energy policy disguised as environmental regulation. It has brought together bipartisan opposition at every level.
The unfortunate reality is that even if these commonsense measures were to succeed in overturning the EPA’s rule, the uncertainty created by the Obama administration has stalled investments in research and development for carbon technology.
The global coal market is growing and the U.S. is unique in that it has the capability to develop coal responsibly. We are the only nation that has reduced its carbon emissions in the last decade.
Is it my hope that these rules are abolished and faith and investments are restored in this industry so that our nation can capitalize on the opportunity to build our economy with coal as the foundation to become a global energy producer, exporter and leader.
The writer is CEO and president of Amerikohl Mining headquartered in Butler.
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- On June 1, 2015