OBAMA HAZING US ON COAL

Obama promised that he would make coal produced electricity prohibitively expensive. And, he is keeping his promise. The Obama Administration is using the "Sue and Settle" strategy to override state environmental efforts and impose the agency's more-expensive rules.

In December, the EPA proposed new Nitrogen Oxides regulations and before the ink had dried, the EPA claimed that the emissions of nitrogen oxides by coal plants in Arizona created "haze" in the Grand Canyon and other national parks. They therefore claimed jurisdiction over Arizona's coal plants, and demanded the installation of very expensive upgrades or a shutdown of the plants. The EPA recommended the owners of the 2,250-MW Navajo coal plant in Arizona install equipment to reduce haze in national parks that could cost as much as $1.1 billion. Given the cost of compliance, the inevitable outcome will be a shutdown.

That will eliminate 40% of Arizona's power, however, and not just Arizona. California buys plenty of excess electricity from Arizona, which will either become more expensive for consumers in both states, or someone will have to do without. That could mean that Los Angeles will see shortages, for instance, or that California will have to start encouraging a lot more production in the state.

But the EPA mandate goes beyond that. Navajo produces power used to deliver drinking water to consumers (via the Central Arizona Project) in the state's two largest cities, Phoenix and Tucson. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne warned if the EPA forces Navajo to shut, power prices for the Central Arizona Project Water would increase by at least 20 percent.

Arizona has challenged the EPA regulator in federal court. Horne said in a statement the emission control measures proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would not affect health or be reduce emissions visible to the human eye. "This is an absurd action that would significantly raise utility rates for most Arizonans without providing any benefit to anyone," Horne said in a statement. … "This attempt by the EPA has nothing to do with ensuring clean air and everything to do with trying to eliminate coal as a source of electricity," Horne said.

The US Chamber of Commerce came out strongly on Arizona's side. They said, "In the long term, EPA's abuse of its Regional Haze authority could present a persistent problem for all states. Under its rules, states must revise their Regional Haze implementation plans every 10 years, until the nation's ambient air is returned to natural conditions (which is to say, forever). If EPA's regional haze power grab is allowed to stand, then the agency would have assumed an enormous new source of authority, with which it could effectively impose whatever controls it wants once every decade. It is thus imperative for states to act now to check EPA on Regional Haze, thereby preserving the structure established by Congress and ensuring the balance of environmental federalism."

This is the EPA's and environmentalists' favorite tactic. Environmentalists sue the EPA. The EPA then settles regional haze rules that commit it to "various deadlines to act on all states' visibility improvement plans. These consent degrees are then used to batter coal powered utilities over the head.

Using these consent degrees, the EPA refuses to approve the states' submissions due to alleged procedural problems, such as inadequate cost estimates. Then the EPA claims that it had no choice but to impose its preferred controls in order to comply with the Consent Decrees.

This isn't the end. Since states like Montana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming are also covered by these consent decrees, expect the EPA to institute rules on those states that target coal-fired power plants.

Fortunately, Arizona and its Attorney General (who has a good record winning cases in front of the SCOTUS) are going to fight this. With luck, this unholy triumvirate of environmentalists, EPA regulators, and "consent degrees" will be stopped. If not, Obama's war on coal will continue and we will see higher energy costs and fewer jobs.