GOP lawmaker uses flawed reports to bash EPA coal rule

If corporations were indeed people, those corporations that operate coal plants would be quite pleased with Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-Pa.) piece for them in the Wall Street Journal.  Unfortunately for readers, the piece addresses neither the impact carbon pollution has on health or the very real danger of global climate change.  What readers do get is rhetoric riddled with misinformation and studies that have at best a misleading relationship to this debate.

This is, however, a step-up from how Kelly referred to the EPA recently when he said, “you talk about terrorism — you can do it in a lot of different ways. But you terrorize the people who supply everything this country needs to be great — and you keep them on the sidelines — my goodness, what have we become?”

My goodness indeed. 

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But let’s not get distracted by the rhetoric, let’s look at the facts.  In his piece Kelly cites two studies irrelevant to the actual proposed rules and wrongly says that the EPA plan will close power plants and do little to fight climate change.

That last point first.  The Clean Power Plan would cut emissions 30 percent from the sector responsible for 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution. By any measure, that is doing a tremendous amount to fight climate change.  Seeing the words “climate change” in the congressman’s piece is encouraging in and of itself but the reality is that this plan will in the very least do vastly more than any plan that Kelly or Republican leadership supports.

Secondly, on closing power plants, his piece doesn’t mention what even the coal industry recognizes, which is that the price of producing electricity from coal is making the price of doing that business even more expensive.  The rules alone aren’t changing the nature of the business, the business is changing nature, with extreme and unpredictable weather events getting priced into strategic planning as a key relevant business factor for which they need to be prepared.

As for the studies he cites, Kelly claims businesses would suffer due to climate change, citing a study by the American Action Forum. While ignoring that the costs of climate inaction could cost businesses $150 billion a year, New York Magazine pointed out that the AAF study “doesn’t really say that Obama’s new regulations on coal plants will increase electricity prices by 10 percent. It arrives at this figure by adding the projected costs of all of Obama’s energy regulations, past and present.”

Finally, Kelly used a Heritage Foundation study released in June to show the negative impact of the Clean Power Plan. The Heritage study wrongly assumed a complete phase out of coal, while the EPA plan maintained coal as 30 percent of future energy. Even the Heritage Foundation admitted its study did not “model EPA regulations.”

I get the political pressure inside the Republican Party to ignore the reality of global climate change.  But regardless of what the internal Republican politics are, global climate change is a reality and future generations deserve more than the level of debate coming out of climate deniers.

Burton is senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.