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Coal Wars

Posted by: Annika Darling @ June 18, 2014, 12:39 p.m.

Obama’s New Emission Rules: Will They Survive Challenges?

Currently coal miners aren’t under the purview of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. She’s focused on the new emissions rules which will "reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent." The EPA also projects the reductions will avoid 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.

However, opponents were equally effusive in their condemnation.

"The administration has set out to kill coal and its 800,000 jobs," Sen. Mike Enzi said in the GOP weekly address Saturday. The Chamber of Commerce estimated the new regulations will cost the economy $50 billion a year.

Besides a statistics debate, many other forms of push back, cries of protest and warnings of economic doom are certain to follow in the next few years. However, a poll of small business owners released Wednesday from the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) found that 87 percent are worried that climate change impacts will harm their businesses, 64 percent support some kind of government regulation on carbon pollution, and 40 percent even say they’d accept a 10 percent increase in energy prices rather than suffer the consequences of climate change.

"The notion that all business execs believe that the marketplace will generate the optimal amount of carbon pollution is exposed as false by this survey," responded BWC President Mitch Rofsky, a member of the ASBC Board of Directors: (link to the survey)

Two big things that could halt the new emission rules' implementation: 1) If a Republican president is elected in 2016. The legal and political battle is expected to extend through January 2017, when Obama leaves office. This means most of the process will take place in the hands of his successor. A Republican president will most likely put a halt on the whole situation. 2) If the courts decide to strike them down. However, based on prior decisions, the Supreme Court may be the easier hurdle here, as it has approved most, but not all, of EPA’s anti-global warming efforts.

Litigation about EPA’s rules is certain -- you can add that to death and taxes. The greatest contention will be if EPA has the authority to regulate power plant emission to such a degree. This will bring into play legal theories that have never been tested before, and the outcome will most likely depend on the judges randomly assigned to the panel. And, still, the outcome won’t come for a while.

In the meantime, this state of limbo will be accompanied by a series of political earthquakes. States will begin planning for 2015 and 2016, while owners of older coal plants make tough decisions on whether to upgrade or retire; media will make exaggerated assumptions on outcomes; supporters will preach that the U.S. should be an environmental leader; and opponents will offer up the lowly coal miner -- poetically, figuratively, and literally -- in hopes that the image of a family man wearing overalls with a coal-smeared face will dispirit, befuddle and defeat.

The coal miners whose jobs are, in a very real way, threatened by these new rules will not so easily be swept under the rug, Obama should be assured of that -- though neither he nor the environmental community has expressed any real concern. At the very least, it’s a great way to create more anti-environmental voters.



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