- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday finalized “cross-state air pollution” regulations designed to drive coal-plant operators out of business. This noxious rule will choke job creation and ensure that consumers are stricken with higher utility bills every time they switch on the mercury-filled curlicue light bulbs they also will be forced to buy.

Beginning Jan. 1, industrial facilities in 28 Eastern and Central states will be subject to draconian restrictions on emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, pollutants that potentially can cross borders. It’s all being done in the name of promoting health, but an overzealous and unaccountable bureaucracy is ignoring the devastating toll on the economy’s wellness.

Coal plants will be forced to install new scrubber equipment that provides marginal improvement in air quality at tremendous expense. This cost will be passed along to the consumer in the form of higher electricity costs. NERA Economic Consulting studied the impact of a pair of EPA rules affecting coal and estimated the extra cost would total $184 billion through the year 2030. This includes $72 billion in capital costs that coal companies will have to pay right now to comply. Electric bills will jump 12 percent by 2016 with areas such as Kentucky and Tennessee seeing a 24 percent increase. Employment will drop by a net 1.4 million jobs.

The Obama administration is just fine with this outcome. Currently, 45 percent of electricity comes from coal because it’s abundant and inexpensive. The left prefers to flirt with windmills and solar panels, which depend on breezes and daylight to function. There’s no way these inefficient schemes could be competitive without the government stepping in to hobble coal. Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the new EPA rule an example of destructive federal overreach, saying “the Obama administration seems intent on increasing energy costs for American consumers and making us even more dependent on foreign energy.”

The folly of the EPA rule is that it will just move pollution overseas. Right now, about 8 percent of U.S. coal exports go to China - an amount that continues to increase as the Middle Kingdom seeks inexpensive fuel for its growing economy. Forcing the U.S. economy to switch to less efficient sources of energy just makes us that much less competitive in the global marketplace.

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