Big Coal to Congress: Save us from EPA!
by David Roberts
Last week, I did a series of posts on the state of the power sector and the new EPA regulations that are set to upend it. In case you missed it:
- A brief overview of the U.S. power sector.
- Why America still has a large fleet of filthy old coal plants with no modern pollution controls.
- The two new EPA rules that most threaten old coal plants.
- The other new EPA rules that could threaten coal plants.
Given the impending changes, how is the power sector reacting? For the most part, predictably.
For more than 30 years now, the utility industry has dealt with environmental regulations in one way: It's fought them. Utilities have sued at every opportunity, spent millions of dollars buying off legislators, staffed federal agencies with flacks, and funded enormous propaganda campaigns to mislead the American people. That's what they know; it's a war they've been waging for generations. (Though, as I noted, the perverse incentives established by grandfathering under the Clean Air Act share some of the blame.)
Now they face an EPA that is taking its responsibilities seriously. Given the backlog, much of the regulatory work that should have been spread out over 10 or 20 years is going to happen in a relatively short time span. This has the industry, which is unaccustomed to change or innovation (to say the least), in a bit of a panic. So it's doing what it's always done: forecasting doom, filling legislators' heads with scare stories, and planning lawsuits.