- - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Just when our economy is shrinking, President Obama wants to impose harsh environmental rules that will kill jobs, raise energy costs and impose new burdens on business.

One week after the government said the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter for the first time since 2011, Mr. Obama is calling for severe, new coal-emissions rules that many Democrats in Congress say will hurt their states and the economies thereof.

They will result in widespread job losses with estimates of up to a half-million workers, and likely much more than that if the new rules are fully adopted. Those jobs would come, first and foremost, from coal-mining states, but also from many industries that are heavily dependent on coal for their energy needs.

Nearly 20 states obtain more than half their electric power from coal-fired plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. The Chamber of Commerce says the Environmental Protection Agency’s emission rules would cost businesses more than $50 billion.

The new EPA rules have infuriated Democrats in major coal-producing states, many of whom are facing tough elections this year at a critical time when Republicans are close to winning the six seats needed to take control of the Senate.

A typical example of the anger the EPA rules have sparked came from West Virginia’s Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who’s running for an open Senate seat. She promised voters Monday that she would “stand up” to Mr. Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy “and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs.”

Similar criticism came from Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is in a tight race to unseat Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in another pivotal coal state.

Mr. McConnell is attacking Mrs. Grimes for accepting a $2,000 contribution from the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading backer of stricter EPA rules.

West Virginia Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, one of the GOP’s chief targets this fall, says he will introduce legislation to block the EPA rules. No doubt he will be supported by a number of Democrats from coal states across the country, not to mention every Republican on Capitol Hill.

The legislative battle is shaping up to be a replay of Mr. Obama’s doomed “cap-and-trade” clean-energy proposal in his first term. That bill never saw the light of day, largely because of opposition from coal-state Democrats.

The Republicans lost no time this week in mounting a barrage of automated calls against vulnerable Democratic senators seeking re-election in key battleground states, including Alaska, Louisiana, Virginia and Colorado.

The calls tell voters that Mr. Obama’s EPA rules will mean “skyrocketing” electricity rates. In Virginia, for example, where Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is running hard for re-election, the robo-calls say, “Tell Mark Warner higher gas prices and new EPA regulations just don’t make sense for Virginia.”

The most influential business groups in the nation are mounting furious lobbying drives of their own, including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, which say the anti-coal regulations would increase business costs at a time when our economy is still struggling to get out of a painfully slow, jobless recovery.

Last week, the government’s U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released a revised report that said the economy’s growth rate, as measured by everything we produce and sell, actually shrank by an annual rate of 1 percent in the first three months.

Many business economists have lowered their forecasts for growth, projecting the economy will grow no more than 2 percent for the rest of this year, and possibly well into 2015.

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