Ky. Voices: Coal facts to fight EPA, extremists

Assault unprecedented, unreasonable

October 22, 2012 

Mike Duncan of Inez is president, CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

  • At issue: Oct. 10 commentary by the NRDC Action Fund, "Questions about energy, 'war on coal' mantra"

During political campaigns, it is typical for outside groups to come into a state and attempt to persuade voters.

There is something strange, however, about seeing extremist environmental groups asking Kentuckians to embrace an anti-coal agenda, particularly when Kentucky enjoys the fourth-lowest electricity rates in the nation due to the fact that 93 percent of our state's electricity is generated by coal.

The reason coal has become a big issue in this election is because it has faced an unprecedented attack by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In the past four years, the EPA has proposed or implemented 10 major new regulations that would impact the coal-based electricity industry. At the same time, the agency is given cover by activists who offer Americans a false choice between a cleaner environment and the use of coal.

As this election season hits the home stretch, here are facts that voters won't learn from the environmental extremists:

■ During the past 30 years, emissions of major pollutants from coal-fueled power plants have declined by more than 85 percent.

■ Critics like to say that clean coal is a myth but then can't offer an explanation as to how such environmental progress has been made. It is because during that same period, the utility industry has invested more than $110 billion in clean coal technologies, which are not only real but currently being used in plants throughout the country.

■ The EPA's anti-coal agenda is going to take a toll on Americans in terms of lost jobs and higher prices.

An analysis done by National Economic Research Associates found that the combination of four of EPA's rules could destroy 180,000 jobs a year and increase electricity prices by as much as 19 percent in some areas of the United States.

■ The EPA's assault on coal-based electricity imposes unprecedented and unrealistic expenses on the industry.

Another analysis by NERA found that just one of EPA's proposed new regulations would cost the industry more than $80 billion through 2015. To put that into perspective, the industry will have to spend nearly as much over the next few years to comply with just one rule as it has spent on compliance over the previous four decades. This is hardly the sign of a reasonable approach by the EPA.

■ The EPA's short-sighted approach poses risks for America's electrical reliability.

More than 200 coal-fueled power units representing 31,000 megawatts of electrical generation will be shut down in the next five years, due at least in part to EPA regulations. This is equivalent to shutting down the entire electricity supply of Ohio. As the economy recovers and energy demand increases, Americans must be concerned that our country will have the supplies needed to meet demand.

Having spent my life in Kentucky, I have seen what happens to a community when a coal mine shuts down. It is not just jobs at the plant that are lost; it is jobs at the local stores.

These shutdowns also lead to lower tax revenues for schools, hospitals and law enforcement, and inevitably lead to the slow decline of a community.

Unfortunately, this same circumstance will play out in more Kentucky communities if the EPA does not restore some balance to its regulatory policies.

The extreme environmentalists are never interested in the real facts about coal, but Kentucky voters will be armed with them when they enter the voting booth next month.

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