Skip to comments.EPA’s Power Sapper - The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is an economy killer.
Posted on 07/15/2011 5:23:32 PM PDT by neverdem
EPA's Power Sapper
The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is an economy killer.
On July 7, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted strict new standards on power-plant emissions that cross state lines — the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The rule has been the focus of multiple White House meetings, hastily called legislative hearings, and last-ditch letters from congressmen, unions, industry, and the states — all pleading with EPA to consider the jobs that will be lost because of this single rule. And it is only the latest installment in dizzying series of new EPA rules with multi-billion-dollar compliance costs and dubious or entirely speculative environmental benefits.
In Texas, CSAPR could eliminate the use of lignite coal that now fuels critical base-load electricity generation. According to the National Electric Reliability Council (NERC), the new EPA rules could so abruptly suppress coal-fired generators that basic electric reliability in the U.S. could suffer a loss of up to 100 gigawatts (GW) by 2014 — 10 percent of the nation’s total electric capacity.
With compliance beginning January 2012, the new air-pollution rule leaves many coal-fired power plants with no alternative but to reduce output or shutter entirely. Congress provided almost a decade to implement the acid-rain rules of the 1990s. EPA’s national program to reduce nitrogen oxides allowed almost five years before initial compliance. But the industry will have only a few months to comply with the first phase of this new rule.
Although Texas has some of the lowest emission rates in the country and has massively reduced emissions of the EPA’s criteria pollutants, the state remains a target for the agency because of the size and vigor of our economy and population. Texas also generates 11 percent of its electricity from native lignite coal, which has higher sulfur content than most other coals. Here EPA has devised a specious methodology to require that Texas reduces SO2 levels by 46 percent within two years — an impossible task.
On June 30, Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, testified before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the rule “represents another case where EPA has inadequately rationalized the need for a complex regulatory scheme to solve a nonexistent problem.” The rule reveals EPA’s wanton disregard for the real-world consequences of unachievable environmental mandates. For the magnitude of costs this rule would impose, EPA’s technical errors are appalling, arising either from incompetence or an activist agenda to kill coal now, whatever the socio-economic costs.
For example, EPA uses obsolete emissions data from 2005 to project emission impacts from Texas. The analysis assumes the existence of 19,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from Texas that have been eliminated by state regulation since 2005.
EPA’s avowed intent is to prohibit interstate transport of power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide, as these emissions hinder attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in downwind states. EPA’s purpose in including Texas is to reduce particulate-matter pollution in St. Louis by imposing stringent limits on SO2 emissions from Texas power plants. St. Louis, however, officially satisfies the federal air-quality particulate-matter standard in question, as does Texas.
EPA acknowledges that it has no technical basis for regulating Texas emissions of SO2 in this transport rule but decided to “err on the side of regulation.” If Texas is not regulated under a new air-pollution rule, EPA conjectures, the investor-owned electric utilities might decide to use more of the less expensive but higher-sulfur lignite coal: “If . . . price effects took place and if the rule is finalized as proposed [without Texas], sources in states not covered by the proposed rule might choose to use higher-sulfur coals. Increased use of such coals could increase SO2 emissions in those states.”
The Clean Air Act gives the EPA no authority to regulate current hazards to human health based on speculative scenarios. EPA’s rationale for pulling Texas into the scheme also overlooks the almost prohibitive legal constraints on using more lignite. EPA’s hazy precautionary analysis is its justification for destroying the lignite-mining industry in Texas — jettisoning 11 percent of the state’s electric generation, destroying more than 2,500 jobs directly and some 10,000 more indirectly in the lignite-mining industry, and forfeiting $2.4 billion in annual expenditures by the lignite-coal industry – the tax base for many Texas communities. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) told EPA that the new rule could destroy the jobs of 1,500 IBEW members working at six power plants in Texas.
The abrupt elimination of lignite in the Texas fuel mix could mean the loss of 7,000–13,000 MW of generation capacity in Texas. This could reduce the generating capacity of Texas to as much as 3.8 percent below demand, as projected by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for the next two years. This is a sobering statistic for Texas this hot summer: ERCOT has already issued energy-emergency alerts when electric demand threatens to exceed available generation. Under the new rule, power outages could become routine.
The technical data underlying this rule assume that most Texas power plants already have ceased, or will immediately cease, using lignite. Thirty percent of coal-fired generation in Texas depends on lignite. And Texas has new state-of-the-art coal plants using lignite and built with layers of emission-control technology.
EPA also assumes that switching to lower-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming is a timely, cost-effective solution. Such snap-of-the-finger fuel-switching is logistically and legally impossible. Retrofitting plants that now use lignite would involve three to four years of engineering, fabrication, boiler reconstruction, new rail construction, and complex new permits.
The new rule’s impact on other states, particularly the Midwestern and Eastern states more dependent than Texas on coal-fired generation, are comparably severe. America Electric Power, one of the largest power generators in the Midwest and Eastern U.S., has invested billions in advanced pollution-control technology to reduce its fleets’ emissions of SO2 and NOx by 64 and 84 percent, respectively. EPA’s proposed transport rule would eliminate the use of SO2 allowances banked under a previous transport rule. As a result, the market price of SO2 allowances has dropped to almost zero. Beware when EPA develops a “market mechanism” for regulatory compliance.
Executives of major electric companies in Texas recently testified about the insurmountable challenges of retrofitting plants to suit the new rule’s timetable. In the deregulated Texas electric market, customers do not pay all the costs of retrofits or new construction. Investor-owned utilities absorb a significant portion of the costs and — unlike government-owned utilities — they can’t be forced to operate at a loss.
Because the new air-pollution rule is only one of many EPA rules in the hopper, later rules could render irrelevant the expensive retrofits undertaken to comply with the CSAPR. For many firms, closing some plants and idling others may be the only prudent economic decision. When questioned about the risk of shutting down power plants, EPA assistant administrator for air Gina McCarthy asserted that such eventualities are purely “business decisions” not caused by EPA’s environmental rules.
And when asked about job loss, McCarthy said the new EPA rules will create jobs to fabricate and operate the new emission-control hardware. Put those jobs in the box labeled non-productive, along with all the “green” jobs created by wasteful taxpayer subsidies. And although EPA estimates a one-time cost of compliance in the $7–11 billion range, Ms. McCarthy speculates that the health benefits from CSAPR could total $26 to $840 billion annually — the latter figure amounting to 5.7 percent of GDP in 2009. (Really?)
EPA calculates health benefits by assigning an arbitrary figure ($5 million) to statistical lives and work days “not lost” as a result of PM 2.5 levels. Without a single study demonstrating a causal connection between PM levels and adverse health effects, EPA establishes statistical associations or correlations between certain PM levels and any hospital visit or death attributed to a range of respiratory and cardiological conditions. This is at least double counting, and more likely quadruple counting. EPA counts the same deaths and hospital visits for multiple pollutants. EPA also does public surveys to gauge what people would pay to decrease their risk of dying from PM pollution below the current estimate of 1/100,000. A hypothetical question, an arbitrary answer, and no money earned, spent, or saved: EPA’s calculation of health benefits is absurd.
The air-pollution rule is only one of at least ten EPA rules with converging effective dates in the next three years. EPA promulgates these rules in piecemeal fashion with no consideration of how overlapping requirements and compliance costs will impact the economy. After 40 years of regulation under federal environmental laws, EPA is now using environmental law to force a national energy policy that has been repeatedly rejected by Congress — aiming in this case to supplant coal-fired electric generation. The nation simply cannot afford to let EPA keep imposing crushing burdens on our working families without any regard to scientific method or realistic cost-benefit analysis.
— Kathleen Hartnett White is director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. From 2001 to 2007, she was chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
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Hard to say what the first order of business will be for the new President in 2013, but I’d say that de-fanging this and other onerous rulings by unelected “officials” would be right up there.
The air is very clean where I am and same for 99% of America. Maybe there is some smog in DC and NYC where these liberal geniuses live. They must be so stupid that they think the air is dirty outside their urban liberal enclaves. Or maybe they are plain evil and want to jack up electricity for average Americans
BTW Fumigate the EPA building and do us all a favor
Building the Gestapo created jobs, too.
The EPA has only one real goal and they’re achieving it piece by piece.
That is most likely not too far from the truth!!
I’ve often wondered what would happen if utilities just ignored all these rules en masse and rebelled. What if they totally ignored the ensuing fines levied against them by the out-of-control government. Would the government send in federal troops or National Guard to force the shut down of the plants? Force blockades of the rail lines transporting the coal?
Unfortunately, many utility execs (like ex CEO Bryson at SoCalEd) are uber-greenies and are in the hip pocket of the radical enviro-kooks.
economy killer - WHO CARES? SOCIALIST UTOPIA!!!
The EPA has only one real purpose and that is to slow the US economy while promoting third world countries economies. The reasoning behind this is that the world needs all countries to become states under a single head of world government. Catching on what’s happening yet?
Yes the goal of America’s progressive party is to bring America down and slip us into the United Nations not as a sovereign nation but as a subservient state.
This is what Obama is doing under the guidance of his controllers, ie George Soros and whomever else is supportive of socialism.
If anyone has any facts that refute what I have posted here please put them up where we all can see them.
No I'm not, because I known it for at lest two decades.
What is upsetting is the sheer numbers of people that would give American sovereignty over to the largest, most corrupt organization on earth, The U.N.
Even the Democratic party is willing to whore itself for such an American fiasco.
It’s the dream of the Democratic party! Many voters don’t know this but the leaders certainly do.
This is a great example of Robert Mugabe type politics. Mugabe ruined Rhodesia and Obama is doing his best to ruin America. Obama has been reading Mugabe’s playbook. I’ll bet Mugabe started off as a socialist
Why do just envision the next President of the USA—provided that Obama is defeated in 2012—signing a mountain of bills just to undo the mess Obama left behind??
Both China and India were exempted from the Kyoto Agreement. It would have stifled their growing economies.
The current administration is far more blatant...and I paraphrase The Won...
“My policies would necessarily cause energy prices to sky rocket”
“We can't keep our houses cool and drive big cars and expect the world to respect us.”
Like I care that the world is envious of the standard of living in the US. But a large portion of the electorate either didn't hear...or shouted YEAH!!!
Maybe we should try to bring willing countries up to a better standard of living instead of bringing ours down to theirs.
George Soros can't beat this whole country. But the inner dynamics might.
Name a post-1900 dictator who didn't portray himself as a socialist.
>>Maybe we should try to bring willing countries up to a better standard of living instead of bringing ours down to theirs.<<
GATT and NAFTA were supposed to do that. Now American corporation are manufacturing in dozens of foreign nations. The only problem is that they are manufacturing items that were once manufactured in the USA. The heavy steel mills that produced so much pollution that the EPA bureaucrats could no longer breathe have been closed down and moved to China. FReepers cheered when the union jobs went the way of the mills until they learned that us taxpayers are now supporting out of work steel mill workers.
The automobile plants in Detroit have all cut their production because most of our vehicles now come from Canada or Mexico while us taxpayers are now supporting out of work automobile plant workers.
What would your plan be for those third world nations?
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