Forum Center, 7/10

New EPA Regulations May Affect Ohio Coal Production

The Obama administration’s proposed EPA rule to control greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants will have a dramatic effect on coal-producing states like Ohio.  The new regulation would go far towards closing out the era of old-fashioned coal-burning power generation.  The proposed regulation would limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.   It imposes a standard for emissions that is all but impossible for many plants to meet with the equipment currently in use. It requires coal-fired plants to release no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. The only means for many older plants to attain that standard is to install what is known as carbon capture and storage technology. At the present time that’s expensive and not commercially available.

In an effort to slow the implementation of the EPA regulation, last year the House passed legislation on a mostly party line vote of 233 to180, to delay the date upon which the regulation was to take effect. The House bill would have hindered the EPA’s ability to move forward on the new rule.  Last month the U.S. Senate killed an effort to reform the federal coal plant regulation, a move that industry observers said would end exemptions that make it profitable to run aging coal plants. Five members of each party switched sides in the 53-46 vote to support existing EPA regulation governing mercury emissions. Ohio senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican, each voted with their respective parties.

The EPA and other environmental scientists believe that emissions from coal plants are a leading contributor to greenhouse emissions. These emissions are argued by some environmentalists to be a major contributor to global warming.  They argue that the country needs to be weaned away from coal.

There are throughout the coal-producing states as many as 200,000 people employed to dig, process, transport and burn America’s most abundant fuel.  Industry experts argue that these jobs are threatened by the EPA regulations.  For a state like Ohio, the outcome could be devastating as Ohio derives over 80 percent of its electric power from coal. Ohio has 26 major coal-based electricity generating plants that produce nearly all of the state’s electricity. Spokesmen for the coal industry claim that this regulation will cause many Ohio power plants to shut down and could cause thousands of Ohioans to lose their jobs, and millions more see a big increase in their electricity rates

Coal industry representatives believe they’ve made great strides in reducing emissions through the years — now capturing over 99 percent of particulate emissions released during the combustion process. The EPA’s proposed rule, they say, sets the bar too high and may force the closure of 20 to 25 percent of coal-fired plants across the United States.  It’s a move that could put thousands of Ohioans out of work.

Forum Question of the Week:

Is the new proposed EPA regulation of coal-burning power plants a reasonable attempt to limit greenhouse emissions or does the regulation set an environmental bar that is too high, considering the current clean-burning technology available at a reasonable cost for  the industry? 

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