Save coal - delay EPA action

As a result of the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gases are pollutants, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now effectively compelled to regulate greenhouse gases under the existing Clean Air Act. That law is not well suited for such action because it disables EPA from taking into account the unique needs of the coal industry and entities such as electric utilities and manufacturers that rely on coal.

EPA regulation of greenhouse gases would be the worst outcome for the coal industry and coal-related jobs. It is far preferable that Congress, not EPA, set the rules because Congress can and will take into account the economic considerations necessary to establish a successful program that prevents economic disruption, protects jobs and allows our nation to continue its use of our most abundant and inexpensive fuel: coal.

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Since the Supreme Court decision, I have taken steps to protect the coal industry and coal-related jobs, and to keep electricity prices affordable for American consumers. In June of last year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a balanced measure that would control greenhouse gas emissions while preventing economic disruption. While this measure is far from perfect, I was able to secure a range of fundamental changes to the bill that allow for the continued and robust use of coal and the deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies necessary for the coal industry’s future success. For example, the legislation included free allowances for emitters, 2 billion tons of annual offset credits and about $150 billion for the development and deployment of clean-coal technologies.

It is now clear that balanced legislation regulating greenhouse gas emissions will not be approved in this Congress. In the absence of Congressional action, EPA is poised to begin its required regulation with an announced schedule that will place limits on emissions from stationary sources, including power plants, beginning in 2011.

Because EPA is not in a position to include a training program for emission allowances, offsets, funding for clean-coal technologies, or other mechanisms to establish an economically sustainable program, it is now necessary to halt EPA regulation until a more acceptable program can be developed by Congressional action.

In order to avoid the large-scale economic disruption that would be caused by EPA’s actions, I have joined with my colleagues Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) in the House and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in the Senate in introducing the Stationary Source Regulation Delay Act. Our legislation will suspend for two years action by the EPA to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from stationary sources, while allowing the consensus-based mobile-source regulations to move forward.

This approach differs from other proposals to halt or delay EPA action on greenhouse gas regulation in that it allows the mobile-source regulations to move forward. Moreover, in recognition of the Senate’s refusal permanently to overturn EPA authority, our legislation leaves EPA’s long-term authority in place. By structuring the measure in this manner, we are seeking to find a responsible middle ground that can be enacted.

Our bill is a responsible, achievable approach that prevents the EPA from enacting regulations that would harm the national economy and gives Congress time to establish a balanced program.

Rep. Boucher is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.