By Jason Taylor
October 11, 2017 - Missouri’s Republican Senator Roy Blunt released a strong endorsement of the Trump administration’s Monday announcement that it plans to scrap core Obama era environmental regulations. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt said he would sign a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan on Tuesday.
In a statement, Blunt called the regulation, which was finalized in 2015, one of the most expensive and burdensome Obama administration energy policies.
“With today’s announcement, hardworking Missourians no longer have to fear that they’ll be facing a double-digit increase in their utility bills because of the previous administration’s harmful energy regulations,” Blunt said. “The excessive new rules would have amounted to an additional tax anytime someone flipped on a light switch, harvested a crop, or paid for groceries.”
In April, Blunt appeared with Pruitt at the coal-fired Thomas Hill Energy Center in Clifton Hill, Mo, where he praised the Trump administration’s efforts to reverse Obama era environmental initiatives. In his statement, Blunt pointed to a study commissioned by the coal industry that concluded the Clean Power Plan would have added up to $39 billion in annual compliance costs.
Sierra Club Missouri Chapter Director John Hickey takes issue with Blunt’s claim that the plan is expensive and burdensome. He references cities switching from coal to wind energy and calls Blunt’s statement a “lie”.
“What Senator Blunt said is just a lie,” said Hickey. “There’s no other way to put it. The city utilities of Springfield said that they can buy wind energy for 25% cheaper than they can generate electricity from the coal plants they own. The city of Columbia, same thing. They say they can buy wind for 20%-to-25% cheaper than they can buy coal based electricity. Same in Kansas City.”
Blunt said Missourians have historically relied on coal to power over 80 percent of our electricity, which Hickey claims is inflated at this point in 2017. “I think it’s down in the mid 70’s now because we’ve had so many retirements lately”.
Blunt has been a reliable opponent of the Clean Power Plan since at least 2014, when he urged the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule for existing power plants. In 2015, Blunt cosponsored two Senate resolutions to stop the Obama administration from implementing the Clean Power Plan.
He also joined 200 House and Senate members in 2016 to file a legal document supporting a lawsuit from 27 attorneys’ general seeking to overturn the plan’s “final rule”, which was blocked from taking effect by the Supreme Court to allow the litigation to continue.
The Missouri Sierra Club’s Hickey contends Blunt’s continued support for coal energy is wrong-headed. “Across the state, utilities are saying wind is cheaper. So in fact, if Senator has his way and we remain coal based, that is what’s going to mean higher prices for customers.”
Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest utility, announced a billion-dollar investment in wind power in late September. In 2014, Kansas City Power & Light stated that its investment in wind energy would save customers $1 billion over 20 years.
City governments in Springfield and Columbia announced significant expansion into wind energy over the summer, citing cheaper costs compared to coal.
The state’s 47 electric cooperatives remain largely dependent on coal energy, although the group has also made investments in wind power in recent years.