Coal backers warn against EPA carbon rules

2014-05-19T21:00:00Z Coal backers warn against EPA carbon rulesBy BENJAMIN STORROW Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Electricity bills will skyrocket and the economy will suffer under soon-to-be-released air quality standards for coal-fired power plants, industry advocates predicted Monday, offering a preview of the coming battle over emissions requirements between coal backers and the Obama administration.

Those comments, echoed widely by utility representatives, mining interests and state regulators at an energy summit in Casper, came several weeks before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.  

The new rules are widely anticipated to place greater restrictions on the amount of carbon dioxide coal plants can release into the atmosphere each year and represent a centerpiece of the president's attempt to address global climate change. 

"We anticipate it to be unprecedented in complexity and cost," said Dan Byers, senior director for policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Previous attempts to regulate air quality under the Clean Air Act focused on specific pollutants, such as mercury or particulate matter, their source and eliminating them from the local environment, Byers said.  

Carbon dioxide emissions, by contrast, are global, meaning what is emitted in China impacts the United States and vice versa, he said.  Any carbon reductions in the U.S. resulting from the rule will be negated by increased coal consumption in Asia. American companies, meanwhile, will be left at a disadvantage, as their Asian competitors use a lower-cost fuel source, Byers argued.

Byers was one of four panelists to take up the subject of the new EPA rules, which are expected to be released on June 2, at the Wyoming Energy Summit. 

The two-day event, hosted by the Wyoming Business Report, featured a keynote speech by Gov. Matt Mead and a series of panel discussions on everything from coal exports to oil-by-rail transportation to the future of the uranium industry.  

But in a state that collects $1.2 billion in biannual coal revenues, much of the early discussion centered around the coming EPA rules and what they might mean for the industry.

"Really what our interest is, is that this rule doesn't shut down existing coal plants and coal mines," said Barbara Walz, vice president of compliance at the utility Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

A separate rule, which would essentially require new coal plants to be as efficient as natural gas facilities, effectively mandates utilities use carbon capture technology to meet EPA's regulations, Walz said. Such technology is expensive and would cause wholesale electricity costs to rise 70 to 80 percent initially, she predicted. Costs will fall after the carbon capture technology is improved, but they are still projected to be 30 to 40 percent higher than where they are now, Walz said. 

Steve Dietrich, administrator of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Division, said EPA regulations typically require power plants to install the best available technology to curb pollution. The new rule is different because it essentially forces companies to deploy a technology that has yet to be commercially proven, he said. 

It has taken EPA nearly 40 years to implement a rule passed in the 1970s aimed at curtailing smog, said Richard Garrett, an energy policy analyst at the Wyoming Outdoor Council, a Lander-based environmental group. 

Given that track record and the costs involved in upgrading existing coal plants, it will likely be a long time before EPA implements the new coal rules in earnest, he said in an interview after the discussion. 

"I would like to see bigger steps, bolder steps," Garrett said. "Climate change is upon us and it will become a bigger and bigger burden for our children."

Reach energy reporter Benjamin Storrow at 307-335-5344 or Follow him on Twitter @bstorrow

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. SteveL
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    SteveL - May 20, 2014 6:23 pm
    The international group studying climate change is the International Panel on Climate Change. It was established in 1988, so the term climate change has been around for 25 years. It really does not make much difference what you call it, but when you use the terms as evidence of fraud, it needs to be pointed out that the term has been around for a while. I really hope you are right and this is all a hoax. When the military and insurance companies start making plans to cope with the changes, I suspect maybe there is something to it.
  2. Todd
    Report Abuse
    Todd - May 20, 2014 3:20 pm
    Well said. Obama wants the rest of us to suffer and hopefully (to him) die. Meanwhile he is so concerned he fires up Air Force ! to take a jaunt here and there to play a round of golf. Who know how many gas guzzling vehicles have to accompany him. Meanwhile Michelle and the girls are flying all over the world with a full complement of vehicles and manpower to accompany them. The tax payers can just pony up more money to "save the planet" and do without necessities for themselves, I guess he probably hopes a bunch of us will freeze to death because we can't afford to heat our homes. I don't think he likes America nor Americans very much.
  3. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - May 20, 2014 11:22 am
    taxing carbon? for what? the only ones who make money off it are the eggheads who still think co2 is causing global warming. its a sham and I for one would fight against this bogus carbon credit ideal because its just to hurt the coal industry.
  4. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - May 20, 2014 10:40 am
    i've said it all along it don't matter what we do here the rest of the world is continuing to use coal and they have no EPA telling them what to do. so all were doing is killing our industry in America. and I think that's the plan. to kill America's last foot hold on a means to support our families.
  5. Dewd
    Report Abuse
    Dewd - May 20, 2014 9:06 am
    The Top Line and the Bottom Line of the Great Hydrocarbon Energy Debate read the same: we need to start taxing Carbon. A rate of $ 40 / ton of carbon content in a partiicular fuel, or $ 12 / ton of emitted CO2 is the norm. If you are one of these rubythroated rabblers who are opposed to all taxed QED, then there's another option : take away the $ 550 billion in subsidies given to fossil fuels a every year and start paying the actual cost of your gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and heating oil. Whether you tax carbon and leave the rpesent supply-demand industry in place, or remove the subsisides, the result will be the same. Once folks start paying what carbon really costs, the alternatives suddenly look a lot better. Wind and Solar suddenly cos less - not more - that hydrocarbon , and of course produce no carbon emissions or greenhouse gases.

    A carbon tax is already used in much of the world. Nobody is going broke because of it. The American oil and gas companies are using fearmongering and propaganda and disinformation to brainwash the people about the Big Bad Carbon Tax.---nowhere more evident than here in Wyoming. Read Matt Mead's lips.

    Carbon Taxation can be revenue neutral. It is or at leas should be Pigovian ( look it up ).

    The other bottom line: You've been brainwashed about fossil fuels , Wyoming
  6. dennydewclaw
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    dennydewclaw - May 20, 2014 8:51 am
    Richard Garrett must know what a constipated goose feels like.
  7. wyocoakminer
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    wyocoakminer - May 20, 2014 6:18 am
    Think the only fear mongering is from the environmentalists. First it was global warming, now after the coldest winter in at least thirty years it's climate change. When you are changing your story to fit an agenda, it means your wrong, and your science is wrong. Just a couple hundred years of weather data does not show trends for an environment that's been here a few billion. We saw the effects already last winter on the electricity grid from coal plants shutting down. Brown outs, grids pushed to the point of collapse like in Texas, sky high prices for natural gas on the East coast. Finally, if your that big on environmentalism, get rid of your house, car, computer, ipod, cellphone, clothes, the food you bought at the store. Your contributing to what u despise and no one likes a hipocrite.
  8. Swen
    Report Abuse
    Swen - May 20, 2014 6:08 am
    Barack Obama: "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

    Apparently this is Plan B....
  9. thehousemouse
    Report Abuse
    thehousemouse - May 20, 2014 1:05 am
    to make cheap fuel expensive, and cry wolf about what are they calling it now, climate change? its a crock of you know what. they are out to destroy the us and kill our energy industry. kick epa and the tree huggers to the curb and lets put America back to work.
  10. Edak
    Report Abuse
    Edak - May 19, 2014 9:30 pm
    Agree about the fear-mongering. It is the stock-and-trade of environmentalist radical wolf-cryers for the past many decades. The sky is always falling, we are always on the brink of destruction and nothing we do to clean up the environment is ever good enough.
  11. VOR
    Report Abuse
    VOR - May 19, 2014 9:14 pm
    I think we all know that fear-mongering from the industry is part of a larger public relations campaign. It can be effective.
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