Utility threat to shutter coal plants fuels EPA battle

The House has already passed legislation to block EPA climate change rules, and the energy panel is also moving a bill that would require a new interagency analysis of the cumulative economic effects of EPA rules.

Baker said various EPA rules will saddle the coal industry with huge costs. "These costs have real consequences — families struggling with high energy costs and thousands of Americans who are losing their jobs," Baker said Thursday.

The matter may also surface across the Capitol next week when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a Wednesday hearing on the Clean Air Act and public health.

A major environmental group on Thursday evening pushed back against claims by Ohio-based AEP, which provides power to millions of total customers in states including West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

“The company's plan highlights a simple fact that AEP failed to mention: Closing plants is a business decision, plain and simple,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement.

She adds: “EPA regulations do not require any power plants to shut down. Companies like AEP make the decision — either invest in common retrofits like scrubbers to clean up pollution, or close down old and poorly controlled plants and replace them with cleaner, more efficient generation.”

The politically connected utility spent over $10 million on lobbying in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The company is pushing Congress to delay compliance with several rules.

Patton said the company is seeking to “unravel” protections that are projected to save over 50,000 lives annually.

Lawmakers from states where AEP is planning to shutter plants and retire some generating units — which include political battleground states like West Virginia and Ohio — are calling the utility’s announcement proof that EPA rules go too far.

“Today’s announcement by AEP is a specific example of how the administration’s overregulation is stifling the economy at a time when we need to grow the economy. America needs a low-cost, not high-tax national energy plan that ensures we have access to reliable, affordable domestic energy,” said Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE (R-Ohio) in a statement Thursday.