At this time, it is not known how drastically the EPA wants to change its carbon emission limits. Last September, the agency proposed a cap for new power plants of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour (coal-fired plants emit about 1,800 pounds on average). This was a significant cut, but nowhere near the 800 ppmh limit environmental advocates hoped for. The EPA’s new limits, which President Obama will announce on Monday, will apply to the country’s 600 existing coal plants.
Coal lobbyists, meanwhile, are gearing up for a legal and rhetorical battle.
“We fully expect that whatever comes out will be overly stringent, and will be something that is not good for American consumers or businesses,” says Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
The National Mining Association, which represents large coal mining companies across the U.S., has spent $1 million on advertising spots warning consumers about more expensive electricity bills. Sheehan’s group has also joined the pre-emptive anti-regulation campaign, releasing a report in March that predicted a new EPA restriction would cost America 2.85 million jobs and cost consumers at least $116 billion in losses between 2018 and 2033.
Some energy interests are choosing to wait for Obama’s announcement before they react. The National Climate Coalition, formed by power companies after the EPA declared carbon a pollutant in 2008, has stated that it will take a week to review the new EPA rule. “Obviously the more politicized the issue becomes, the more likely it is that rhetoric will overshadow some of the technical issues,” says Robert Wyman, legal representative for the NCC.
Ben Adler, a writer for Grist, doubts such a measured response will win the day.
“[M]uch of the fight over the rules won’t happen within the EPA’s carefully prescribed process. It’ll happen in histrionic political ads and cable news sound bites as conservatives invoke the specter of skyrocketing electric bills and economic collapse to bash vulnerable Democrats ahead of the November elections.”
Of course, these EPA rules won’t go into effect until well after the November elections, but that just gives climate deniers more time to stoke the coals.