In a recent interview with The Guardian, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, stated that it is not her policies that are driving coal-fired power plants out of business, but rather organic changes in the American electricity market.  Scapegoating natural gas, Jackson claims that low natural-gas prices and booming gas production are depressing coal consumption.  But what Jackson fails to mention is that explicitly due to the EPA’s stringent regulations that some coal production is now non-econommical. The price coal-fired power plants would have to pay to comply with new, burdensome regulations is so expensive, that many coal mines are forced to close their doors. 

Jackson is obviously out of touch with what Americans want from their energy.  Coal is one of the most commonly used forms of energy and the cost of switching from coal to an alternative is one that many Americans are not willing to pay.  Additionally, the administrator does not realize, or ignores, hundreds of thousands of jobs her regulations kill.   Analyzing the EPA’s impact on American employers, ALEC released the study Economy Derailed: State-by-State Impacts of the EPA Regulatory Train Wreck.

This report found that the Utility MACT Rule sets standards so strict that even plants that have the best available technology cannot meet them.  This reinforces the idea that no new coal plants are likely to be built.  The EPA’s estimate of annual cost is approximately $11 billion, and its estimate of annual health benefits from the reduction in mercury is only $6 million. Electricity rates could increase 10.35 percent on average due to just five EPA regulations. Estimates show that these regulations will lead to an increase of 50 percent for gasoline and residential electricity prices and 600 percent for electric utility coal prices. Why pay all of this money for little to no environmental benefit.

Based on air quality restrictions alone, the EPA has already helped shut down several coal plants, resulting in the loss of 27,000 jobs.  Over 100 power plants across the country could be shut down due to upcoming EPA regulations. Additionally, the new rules are expected to jeopardize 7.3 million jobs by 2020. Clearly all that Ms. Jackson cares about is protecting the environment through ineffective policies, even if it means jeopardizing American jobs and putting a larger dent in their wallets.

Well on her way to regulate coal-fired power plants out of existence, Lisa Jackson has effectively mandated that new power generation come from natural-gas power plants. While natural gas may be at historic lows today, prices will inevitably rise as natural gas consumption fills the void left by decreased coal production. This is no way to run electricity markets.

Time and time again has showed that top-down, heavy handed regulations are a terribly inefficient means of setting a national energy policy. With billions of dollars at stake and millions of jobs, our entrepreneurs, market analysts, and producers are most qualified to determine which type of energy Americans’ should use.

Senator Inhofe makes this point beautifully in a letter responding to Lisa Jackson’s initial statement:

“Implying that the 'problem' for the coal industry is 'entirely' related to market economics and had nothing to do with the anticipated implementation of final and pending [EPA] rules dealing with coal-fired electricity…By its nature, the market is flexible and pragmatic; government mandates are inflexible and force uneconomic decisions on unrealistic timeframes.”