Coal state Dems press Obama to scale back EPA emissions rules

A group of Senate Democrats is calling on the Obama administration to amend proposed emissions standards for new power plants, saying the regulations, as currently drafted, would devastate the coal industry in their home states.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider provisions holding new coal-fired plants to the same standards as gas-fired plants.

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“Such a requirement is unprecedented under the Clean Air Act and will have the unfortunate effect of preventing the construction of new coal plants or the upgrading of existing sources,” the group wrote in a letter to President Obama. “We urge you to consider an alternative approach.”

The lawmakers described the administration’s proposed rules as an executive “overreach.”

Republicans have relentlessly criticized the Obama administration for going too far and hampering business with its regulatory authority, but the harsh words from Democrats underscore broadly held concerns over the emissions rules.

EPA unveiled the proposed rule on New Source Performance Standards a year ago. Under the original language, new power plants that burn fossil fuels could release no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt‐hour.

New natural-gas plants would be able to meet the standard without adding any additional technology, EPA officials said at the time. But new coal plants would need to add updated technology being developed to capture and store emissions.

“The EPA’s proposal unfairly targets the coal industry and I strongly urge them to amend this overreach,” Landrieu said in a written statement.

“Not only would this rule have a devastating effect on our coal production, this rule would endanger the reliability and sustainability of our electricity supply,” Manchin added.

The final rule is officially scheduled to be issued this month, though observers have said that now appears unlikely.