By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Attorneys general from more than a dozen states are threatening to bring a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency because of new rules they say will harm the coal industry.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is notably absent from that list.
The regulations announced last week would require coal-fired power plants to use more expensive technology to reduce emissions. Opponents of the new rules say they will result in the end of affordable electricity from coal and will cost potentially thousands of jobs.
In a letter to the head of the EPA, attorneys general from 17 states said the new regulations overstepped federal authority under the Clean Air Act.
Despite Pennsylvania’s long history as a coal-producing state — more than 41,000 jobs in the Keystone State are tied to the industry and 40 percent of the electricity used in the state comes from coal, according to trade groups — Kane, a Democrat, hasn’t signed onto the lawsuit.
“Pennsylvania was not contacted by participating states and asked to join the letter submission to the EPA,” said Joe Peters, Kane’s spokesman, on Friday. “The Office of Attorney General will continue to monitor this important issue.”
The states that have signed onto the letter contend environmental policy decisions are better made at the state level.
“EPA, if unchecked, will continue to implement regulations which far exceed its statutory authority to the detriment of the states, in whom Congress has vested authority under the Clean Air Act, and whose citizenry and industries will ultimately pay the price of these costly and ineffective regulations,” they wrote.
The participating states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Jack Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general, is the only Democrat to sign the letter.
Shawn Good, director of governmental affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, called the new regulations “onerous.”
“Like it or not, coal is still a cheap fossil fuel and it is in great abundance in Pennsylvania,” he said. “This is going have real world economic consequences.”
Those consequences will be felt not only at coal-powered generating plants, but at every business in the state that will have to pay for more expensive electricity, Good said.
The EPA views the new regulations as part of a larger effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020. Environmental groups have praised the new rules.
“These new rules will limit carbon pollution from all future U.S. power plants. That’s good news for people and the environment,” said Kevin Kennedy, director of the U.S. Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute.
It’s a thorny proposition for Democrats from states with long connections to the coal industry. Some Democrats in Congress, most notably, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have already voiced opposition to the new rules.
On Friday, Manchin said the effort was part of a “war on coal” led by the Obama administration.
Mike Duncan, president and CEO of industry group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said previous EPA regulations had already shut down power plants in 33 states.
“Unfortunately, it looks like the administration also wants to make sure no new coal plants are ever built again in the United States, so it’s almost certain the courts will have to settle this issue.”