Ohio EPA Chief Faults New U.S. Air Standards
New clean-air standards threaten the future of some coal-burning power plants and would undercut Ohio’s industrial comeback, the state’s top environmental regulator told a U.S. House committee in Washington on Friday.
“We are marching down the road toward implementing a rule with far-reaching economic consequences without any assurance that the rule is even a legal exercise of U.S. EPA’s authority,” said Craig Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The new rules, which would force states to burn less coal and use more renewable energy, are “ not the answer,” Butler told the environment subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Ohio and 14 other states have filed a federal lawsuit in a bid to block the plan to dramatically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions produced by coal-fired power plants and other sources blamed for contributing to climate change.
Ohio and the other states contend that the new U.S. EPA rules exceed the agency’s authority and represent an end run around the power of Congress to enact standards.
Butler said meeting the standards would be expensive and undermine the long-term viability of power plants in a state that uses half of its electricity for heavy industry such as auto, steel, iron and glass manufacturing.
Butler revealed that Gov. John Kasich wrote to President Barack Obama on Aug. 28 to ask that the new standards be suspended until legal challenges are resolved.
“Access to reliable, abundant and low-cost electricity is critical to Ohio’s economy,” Kasich wrote, saying that Ohio has achieved a 30 percent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions — the primary greenhouse gas — from coal-fired power plants since 2005.
The way the rules are drafted would not allow Ohio to count reductions in air pollution it achieved prior to 2012, Butler said. That means that Ohio would need to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by an additional
37 percent by 2022.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio predicts, based on an analysis of an earlier draft of the rules, that wholesale energy prices could rise by 39 percent by 2025, costing Ohioans $2.5 billion, Butler said. Ohio gets two-thirds of its electricity from coal. The cost under the final rules has not been calculated.
The Obama administration estimated that compliance with the standards and greater use of wind and solar energy will protect public health and save the average household about $85 a year in energy costs.
Ohio environmental groups say Ohio would have been better positioned to meet the new U.S. EPA standards if Kasich had not gone along with the GOP-dominated legislature in 2014 to put a two-year freeze on annual increases in standards for energy efficiency and using renewable energy. Kasich has said the standards are not achievable.
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- On September 14, 2015