EPA chief knocks utility giant’s ‘scare tactics’

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson struck back Wednesday at American Electric Power, the powerful utility that recently claimed looming EPA rules will prompt a wave of coal plant closures and cost scores of jobs.

“Misleading at best, scare tactics at worst,” Jackson told reporters Wednesday after testifying at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Clean Air Act rules.

AEP — a major coal-burning utility — last week said that EPA rules for air toxics, ozone-forming pollutants and other regulations will prompt closure of five coal-fired power plants and require costly changes at others, create a direct loss of 600 jobs and significantly boost power costs for businesses.

The utility is urging a delay in the compliance periods for the rules.

But Jackson, in her testimony to the committee, cited major benefits from implementation of Clean Air Act rules. She has accused industry lobbyists of peddling in inaccurate “doomsday” scenarios.

She noted, for instance, that new standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics proposed in March will prevent an estimated 17,000 premature deaths, 120,000 cases of childhood asthma and 850,000 days of missed work due to illness.

Jackson said there has not been a decision about whether to extend the soon-to-end comment period on that rule.

“We have to answer those requests and we will be announcing something soon,” Jackson told reporters.