Federal Coal Regulations On Trial

December 10, 2013
One
Laurel Morales
One of the Navajo Generating Station's three 750-megawatt generators.

The coal industry, along with some states, is suing the federal government over costly pollution cutting regulations. Environmentalists and public health groups said Tuesday in a federal appeals court the health benefits are worth it.

In 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, which would require coal fired power plants to install technology that would filter out fine particulate matter. EarthJustice attorney Jim Pew defended the rule in court.

“That fine particulate matter gets deep into people’s lungs,” Pew said. “It makes it hard to breathe. For people who have asthma that can be extremely serious. In fact it can be fatal. EPA has very robust numbers that show that just the fine particulate matter emissions from power plants are causing up to 11,000 unnecessary premature deaths every year.”

The industry estimated the rule would cost them $10 billion annually.

Jeff Holmstead, whose firm Bracewell & Giuliani represents power companies, was in charge of air quality at the EPA under President George W. Bush. He said the EPA under President Barack Obama has been more aggressive imposing more stringent rules than any other administration. Holmstead said the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule is the costliest regulation in EPA history.

“These rules will force some plants to shut down will force other plants to install controls,” Holmstead said. “The price of electricity will go up around the country and it will go up more in areas that have more coal fired power plants.”

Pew called these scare tactics. He said there are clean power plants that are taking these measures already and they’re doing just fine. He expected the judge to rule in the next three months.