Deadly coal industry fights new EPA regulations
With the very real prospect of a nuclear meltdown in Japan, Mother Jones published a graphic that shows that coal is, by far, the most lethal form of power on a lives-per-terawatt basis. It’s an important reminder: Earlier this week, the EPA proposed new Clean Air limits on utilities and the industry has unleashed its lobbyists to cry wolf in Congress.
Trade groups predict job losses and a hike in energy prices. But an EPA study on the regulations forecast massive benefits to the economy, largely in the form of improved health and productivity. As for energy prices, the EPA says after 2015, an average family could see a $3 to $4 monthly price tag. That’s one generic prescription, when unlimited emissions of mercury and arsenic are likely to cause very serious illnesses.
Aric Newhouse, head of lobbying for the National Association of Manufacturers, promised even more menacing effects. "Electric system reliability could be compromised by coal retirements and new environmental construction projects caused by this proposed rule and other EPA regulations," Newhouse said. "Stringent, unrealistic regulations such as these will curb the recent economic growth we have seen."
Newhouse has a very selective reading of history. After the Clean Air Act amendments were first introduced in 1990 — the utilities industry has had a 20-year reprieve on the mercury limits— the power industry also predicted economic doom. If you recall, we got instead a boom, even as acid rain all but left the national lexicon.
The jobs threat is largely fabricated, but the health threats of mercury and arsenic are not. China is shuttering a cohort of older coal plants not because the country has decided suddenly to sacrifice its record-breaking economic boom, but because its air quality is notoriously bad.