Mining Regulations Pushed by Biden EPA Putting Industry on Precipice of Disaster, Executive Says
September 14, 2023 - The Biden administration is attempting to curb U.S. coal mining at the expense of energy security and American independence, pushing energy prices higher as the U.S. power grid is still heavily reliant on coal, natural gas and petroleum, according to an industry expert.
The Environmental Protection Agency introduced new carbon pollution standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants in May that it said would "protect public health, reduce harmful pollutants and deliver up to $85 billion in climate and public health benefits over the next two decades." The proposal estimates that through 2042, the net climate and health benefits of the standards are up to $85 billion, but energy experts are pushing back on the EPA's claims.
The EPA is pushing through the regulations with "brute force," so consumers have no choice but to turn to the renewables market and away from fossil fuels, Rich Nolan, the president and chief executive officer of the National Mining Association, told Fox News Digital. As a result, the regulatory environment for the mining industry is approaching "somewhat of a disaster," he said, with the coal industry bearing the brunt of the burden and leaving the energy grid in a precarious position.
There are over 3,400 fossil fuel-fired power plants in the United States, according to the EPA, and in 2022, about 60% of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation was produced from fossil fuels, 18% from nuclear and 22% from renewables.
An aerial picture taken on September 29, 2022, shows trucks driving past a silt pond at a coal mine operated by Blackhawk Mining and Pine Branch Mining in Lost Creek, Kentucky. (Photo by DIANE DESOBEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
"If you look at the 18 states that predominantly rely on coal for their electricity and the over 240 power plants that are coming under pressure directly from EPA, we're talking about a half a dozen regulations that combined are rolling forward and forcing states to shutter well-running coal plants before their useful life has expired," Nolan said.
"That's going to put stress on grid reliability and the electric grid and drive up prices for consumers and businesses at the very time everyone's reeling from energy-driven inflation and all the stressors in their day-to-day lives," he added.
The regulations were predicted to lead to retail electricity prices increasing 2% and the average nationwide prices of natural gas delivered to the power sector increasing 9% by 2030, according to the EPA's regulatory impact analysis of the standards, Fox News Digital previously reported. In addition, the Henry Hub spot price, which is widely considered the benchmark tool to measure the U.S. natural gas market, was expected to increase 10% by 2030.
The EPA told Fox News Digital in a statement that in crafting power sector regulations, respecting utilities’ ability and obligation to deliver reliable and affordable electricity is of "paramount consideration."
"EPA has an excellent track record of delivering public health and environmental protections in ways that are fully consistent with grid reliability," the statement said. "Both past and present rules reflect robust resource adequacy and reliability considerations in EPA analysis, as well as implementation safeguards to serve as a backstop if any tensions between reliability and environmental regulatory compliance requirements were to arise."
"In crafting the protections for reliability in these proposals, EPA conducted careful analysis of resource availability, conferred with DOE and FERC staff throughout the process, and engaged in discussions with industry stakeholders," the statement added. "This dialogue will continue as the regulatory process proceeds."
The EPA said it looks forward to reviewing comments and engaging with stakeholders as it works to finalize the proposed standards.
As president and CEO of the NMA, Nolan directs the association’s public policy efforts before Congress, regulatory agencies and the White House and sets the association’s strategic agenda for media relations, grassroots communications and political involvement. Nolan said the previous administration was much more pro-consumer, pro-family and pro-taxpayer and left decision-making up to the marketplace without interference.
A coal mine operated by Westmoreland Coal is seen November 22, 2022 in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The coal from the mine is used to run the nearby Naughton power plant, which will be decommissioned in 2025. The mine will continue to operate. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
"We've been working with allies on a bipartisan basis in Congress in the Senate and the House to push back, and certainly we're going to hear a lot when these rules come out from the states, the governors, as well as the attorney generals, as a lot of these issues are going to be battled out in a court of law," Nolan said.
Michelle Bloodworth, the president and CEO of America’s Power, a coal power trade group, said in a previous statement to Fox News Digital that coal power plants are one of the country's most dependable and affordable sources of electricity.
"Unfortunately, EPA’s proposed carbon rule is at least the third rule EPA has issued within less than two years that is designed specifically to cause the premature closure of coal power plants," Bloodworth said.
In 2015, the Obama administration was widely criticized over the EPA's Clean Power Plan that experts argued would cost up to $292 billion and potentially raise electricity prices in 47 states and now, Nolan said, the administration's Clean Power Plan 2.0, as it's being called, "could take out another third of the coal fleet" by "forcing states to a position that they don't want to be in related to picking winners and losers in the marketplace."
"The proposal raises a number of critical legal questions, including whether EPA has the authority to force the use of technologies that are not economically or technically feasible for widespread use," Bloodworth warned. "One of the consequences of prematurely retiring coal plants is to exacerbate the risk of power outages."
"There's really going to be a reckoning when the rubber meets the road," he said. "We're going to have rising prices, which we're already seeing, and real reliability concerns. We've already seen the federal regulators in charge of managing reliability say we cannot transition this quickly, that this needs to be done more carefully."
"We're going to have extreme weather events where electricity is simply just not going to be available to the consumer and American businesses," he added.
In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Obama-era regulation limiting power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act was unconstitutional, since Congress didn't grant the EPA the explicit power to issue such regulations. However, the Inflation Reduction Act passed two months later continues allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.