US coal lobby cranks up opposition to Obama carbon cuts

US lawmakers prepare latest salvo against administration’s moves to tightly regulate coal


By John McGarrity

A pro-coal Democrat in the US Senate will next week try and thwart attempts by the US government to curb coal-fired power stations.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the biggest coal producing states, has teamed up with a Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield to introduce a bill that would make it more difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases.

Manchin’s bill is likely to fail say observers, but is a sign of the level of opposition US carbon controls are likely to face from politicians in coal, oil and gas heartlands.

“This bill is likely to get through a Republican controlled House of Representatives but hasn’t a chance of passing through a Democrat-controlled Senate. It’s much more about garnering votes in mid-term elections,” said John Coequyt of US environmental group the Sierra Club.

Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers from coal states are likely to make repeated attempts to hinder the EPA’s intention to regulate existing coal-fired power plants and make it difficult for new ones to be built unless they use carbon capture and storage.

EPA chief: US carbon standards will be ‘tough but flexible’

But short of a Republican victory in the 2016 presidential election, efforts by the EPA are likely to be implemented without too many changes forced by Congress, Coequyt said.

Coal producers, energy companies and lobby groups are using the courts as a method of blocking action by the US administration, but successful lawsuits are unlikely to derail the EPA’s move, he added.

Opponents of government action say tighter emissions standards will lead to mass job losses in the US coal industry, which is a vital source of employment in relatively poor areas of Midwestern and Appalachian states, drive up energy bills and harm US energy security.

Supporters of the Climate Action Plan counter that renewables should displace conventional coal-fired power plants from the energy mix to decrease pollution and lower the country’s carbon emissions, the world’s second-highest.

Tighter regulations on coal-fired power stations has prompted the Department of Energy to forecast 60GW of coal fired power stations will be taken off  the grid this decade, but based on current policies the fuel’s share of the energy won’t be overtaken by gas until 2035.

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