Now even unions see Obama, EPA moving to kill coal, quarter-million jobs

President Obama's cap-and-trade bill died in the Democrat-run 111th Congress, but that hasn't stopped the chief executive and Lisa Jackson, his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, from finding regulatory paths to achieve the same goals.

Topping those goals is the abolition of coal as an electrical power-generating fuel. More than half of the electrical power used every day by Americans is generated by power plants fueled by coal. And 90 percent of all the coal consumed in the U.S. goes to electrical power generation.

But that doesn't matter to Obama and Big Green, they are determined to kill the coal industry because of its alleged contribution to global warming.

It appears that Jackson's EPA has now found the perfect regulatory tool to accomplish that goal – the proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), which, according to the agency, would apply to all “Coal and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units and Standards of Performance for Fossil-Fuel-Fired Electric Utility, Industrial-Commercial-Institutional, and Small Industrial-Commercial-Institutional Steam Generating Units.”

The MATS proposal has sparked massive opposition from among energy  industry groups and conservative think tanks, but now a huge coalition of unions that normally are vocal supporters of Obama are warning of the loss of millions of jobs, substantial power-generation capability, and other harmful consequences radiating throughout the entire U.S. economy.

The group is the Unions for Jobs and the Environment (UJAE), a 501(C)(4) foundation whose 15 member-unions represents “more than 3.2 million workers in electric power, transportation, coal mining, construction and other industries.”

Naturally, the union coalition's first concern is the impact of MATS on employment. In a July 8 letter to EPA, UJAE notes that, while some”tens of thousands of jobs” would be created by the proposed rule's requirement for installation of new emissions equipment, “on the other hand, a potentially much larger number of permanent jobs may be lost in the mining, electric utility, and transport sectors if large numbers of coal-fired generating plants were closed in response to the rule. We regard this risk as real and substantial.”

The UJAE also cautions EPA that its proposed three-year grace period for compliance with MATS is “utterly inadequate for designing,financing, permitting, and constructing the multitude of retrofit pollution controls needed to comply with the rule.”

Most worrisome for UJAE's members, however, is the terrible impact MATS would have on the ability of the U.S. to build new electrical power-generating plants in the future. The proposed rule would effectively ban construction of any new plants using coal:

“The proposed MATS rule would preclude the construction of any new coal-based electric generating units due to the severity of its emission limitations for mercury, acid gases and particulate matter ('PM.'),” UJAE said in its letter.

“Data provided by EPA on June 8, 2011, show that no unit in EPA’s sample of more than 200 coal-based generating units meets the combined MATS new source emission limits for mercury, acid gases and PM.”

It appears that UJAE posts selected examples of its comments on proposed federal regulations on its web site, but the MATS letter is not yet there. If the letter is posted, I will add a link here.

For more information and analysis on the role of coal in the U.S. economy, check this out from the Institute for Energy Research. Also, this page from the UJAE web site, which is based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.



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