The new regulation, known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, is essentially a rewrite of a rule issued by the administration of President George W. Bush that was invalidated by a federal judge in 2008. The regulation, known popularly as the transport rule because it involves emissions that are carried eastward by prevailing winds, is a significant toughening of an acid rain program that was part of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.The Obama Administration and the EPA believe that the costs for improving the emissions to be less than $1 billion, and that it would save $120 to $280 billion a year based on fewer health-related issues downwind of the emitters (estimated at 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments every year.)
The agency said that utilities could meet the new standards at a modest cost using commonly available technology like smokestack scrubbers. Under some E.P.A. projections, the new rule would create jobs in pollution-control business and significantly improve labor productivity by reducing the number of workdays lost to respiratory and other illnesses.
The utility industry and many Republicans in Congress, however, contend that the new rule, along with other pending E.P.A. air quality regulations, will require the closing of dozens of aging coal plants and impose heavy financial burdens on power companies and their customers.
“The E.P.A. is ignoring the cumulative economic damage new regulations will cause,” said Steve Miller, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a group of coal-burning utilities. “America’s coal-fueled electric industry has been doing its part for the environment and the economy, but our industry needs adequate time to install clean coal technologies to comply with new regulations. Unfortunately, E.P.A. doesn’t seem to care.”
An industry-financed study found that new air pollution rules would cost tens of thousands of jobs and raise electricity rates by more than 20 percent in some parts of the country.
Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, called the new rule an impediment to economic growth and job creation.
“True environmental progress will not come from these costly, heavy-handed regulations that harm the very people E.P.A. claims to protect,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement. “Real progress on clean air is best achieved through common-sense multipollutant legislation that streamlines the Clean Air Act’s many redundant and overlapping mandates.”
“The bottom line,” he added, “is that reducing emissions does not have to be this expensive — the Obama E.P.A. just wants it to be.”
Supporters of the new rule said that any costs would be more than offset by health and other benefits. The E.P.A. estimates the annual benefits of the cross-state pollution rule at between $120 billion and $280 billion a year by 2014.
That's a 120-1 benefit to cost ratio using the most conservative savings figure. Even if the Administration overstated the savings by a factor of 10, and the savings would be $10 billion a year, it would be considerable for a limited expenditure of $1 billion. Heck, even if the costs were underestimated by a similar margin, we'd still see benefits outweighing the costs.
The main reason the opponents consider that power costs would rise is that the energy generated by coal-plants is typically cheaper than other sources. Those regions most heavily reliant on coal power would see those energy costs rise while those relying on alt-energy, hydropower, or nuclear power would see far less costs.
It would also affect the economy of states like West Virginia, which are home to significant coal industries. Needless to say, those states are likely to fight back against the rules and seek to have them watered down.
Instead of fighting to water down the rules, the states that rely on coal power should be using this as an opportunity to push alt-energy opportunities and to pitch their states as havens for manufacturing solar or wind power generators and their technologies. What we are seeing is these states are trying to hang on while jobs continue to hemorrhage from those industries.