Sen. Jon Tester's War on Affordable Energy
Recently, PPL Montana announced it is shuttering the J.C. Corette power plant in Billings citing unaffordable costs from new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules. This means fewer good-paying jobs and higher energy prices for small businesses and families.
The Corette power plant is not an isolated case, the EPA is killing jobs and affordable energy right here in Montana and Jon Tester refuses to stop it. Since President Obama took office, the EPA has gone to great lengths to shutter coal-fired power plants eliminating well-paying jobs and is trying its best to stifle oil and natural gas production. These are our nation’s most plentiful, efficient and reliable sources of energy and resources that are vital to powering Montana’s economy and helping working families keep the lights on. With Congress rightfully refusing to implement these policies, President Obama has enlisted the EPA to do his dirty work. The effect of the EPA’s policies is simple: fewer jobs and higher energy bills for Montanans.
Despite the EPA’s dogged regulatory war on the American worker, this highly politicized agency has recently been dealt a serious blow by the courts. The court found that the “Cross State Air Pollution Rule” went beyond the EPA’s authority to set emissions limits. A victory for Montana’s working-class families in towns like Colstrip, Hardin and Billings, the court’s ruling prevents thousands of layoffs from occurring if the rule had been upheld. This latest court ruling only adds to mounting evidence that the EPA is indeed out of control and is in desperate need of adult supervision.
One of the most damaging new regulations is the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (U-MACT). Data from the National Research Associates reports that U-MACT “will cost 180,000-215,000 jobs by 2015” and “with other new EPA regulations on the power sector, the economy stands to lose approximately 1.65 million jobs by 2020.” The adverse economic impact of U-MACT will certainly be felt in Montana.
The U-MACT combined with other new EPA regulations, will cost ratepayers $21 billion per year and drive up electricity rates 6.5 percent on average (and as much as 19 percent in some areas). Furthermore, U-MACT disproportionately hurts lower income Americans—60 million American families earning less than $50,000 in 2012 will spend an average of 21 percent of their after-tax income on energy compared to 9 percent for those making more than $50,000, according to an analysis on the poor and elderly. These are regressive, punitive penalties on working families who are hurting the most and will provide no scientifically identifiable health benefits.
New EPA regulations are designed to discourage the use of coal, a fuel that is plentiful and a good source of high-paying jobs in Montana. By using bureaucratic fiat to determine the energy Montanans use, consumers face enormous exposure and vulnerability to worldwide energy price volatility which decreases our energy independence and threatens our national security.
While Republicans in Congress and the Montana legislature have tried to stand up to these damaging regulations, Democrats have blocked their efforts every step of the way. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows the House and Senate to repeal harmful regulations if a majority of both bodies vote to do so. Unfortunately, this summer when the CRA was used to try and nullify the U-MACT, Sen. Jon Tester voted to preserve the damaging regulation, endangering thousands of American and Montanan jobs.
President Obama and Senator Tester’s EPA has proven to be nothing more than an overly expensive, anti-competitive, job-killing exercise that has left American workers in the dark. More regulation and politicians who duck the tough decisions are the last thing the economy needs right now. Unless something is done to halt this enormous overreach by the federal government into Montana’s business, things will only get worse.
Brent Mead is the Director for Policy Development at the Montana Growth Network. Christopher Prandoni is Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform.