Bring EPA under control to keep coal available

Coal is the power that built America and without the interference of unelected Washington bureaucrats it could help fuel the 21st Century as well.

Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency has embarked on a crusade to remake America’s electric grid without coal, and replace it with more expensive, less reliable fuels like wind and solar that with current technology are incapable of shouldering the load that coal has historically born. The EPA’s course ignores clear evidence from others both here in the U.S. and abroad who have already tried to do without coal and are now paying the price.

California, for example, has been a trailblazer in reshaping its economy without coal; now, Californians are paying retail electricity rates that are 45% above the national average. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Germany has made an attempt to replace its traditional power sources with renewables and finds itself both paying more (thanks to ambitious government mandates) and using more coal than ever before, as renewable energy proves its inability to fill the country’s needs.

Nonetheless, the EPA is forging ahead with a series of misguided polices. Having already pushed new regulations that will prohibit the construction of any new coal-fired power plants, the agency is now targeting the existing coal plants that we rely on for much of our electricity.

But the EPA isn’t just ignoring the lessons of Germany and California they’re also ignoring coal’s proven track record of producing affordable and plentiful electric power to satisfy our nation’s ever-growing demands even when that demand spikes dramatically. This past winter, during the “polar vortex,” the National Coal Council says 92 percent of increased demand for power was met by our remaining coal generation plants that EPA regulations could soon force out of business. Without this coal-fired capacity, what will we do when winter temperatures plunge or rise during the summer months?

The EPA would have you believe that we can rely on renewable sources such as solar and wind to bear the brunt of our demand then. But as we saw this past winter, even with coal as part of our state’s generating portfolio, power prices rose considerably. In the cold winters and hot summers ahead, we’ll be even more reliant on wind and solar. Doesn’t it seem strange to rely on solar to keep the lights on, when during the winter we may not see the sun for weeks at a time? It’s just about as strange as relying on wind power during the sweltering summer months when we all pray for a breeze that never seems to come.

And who will pay the price for this radical reshaping of our nation’s power supply? It won’t be President Obama’s devotees in San Francisco or New York; they’re already paying far more than the national average for their power, and probably can afford to.

Instead, it’ll be the tens of millions of middle- and low-income Americans who already, on average, have to budget more than ten percent of their family’s income to pay the power bill. This will be particularly true for the roughly fifty percent of Americans with an annual household income of less than $50,000. They’ll pay more to their utility company every month and for everything else, as every service and product will become more expensive to reflect rising power costs.

America’s seniors and others on a fixed income will also be hard-hit, as they struggle to stretch their already-limited budgets to pay more for heat, air-conditioning, and power and in states with large coal employment like here in Pennsylvania- thousands of our neighbors will probably lose their jobs.

These extreme EPA policies are a de-facto carbon tax on American households and businesses to fund EPA’s experiment to remake the electric grid and this is not the way it should be. The EPA is overstepping its regulatory authority and threatening to create another economic collapse by driving power costs out of sight. It’s time for more responsible voices in Washington to rein in the EPA.

Congress must act now to bring the EPA under control and keep plentiful, affordable coal available to meet America’s power generation needs.

Fitzgerald is Pennsylvania Executive Director for Count on Coal. Count on Coal is a campaign to make America aware of the benefits of affordable, reliable coal-generated electricity.