First, I'll say that Republicans are for clean air. In fact, I championed one of the first bills to reduce mercury - the Clear Skies Act. That legislation struck a balance between environmental protection and economic development. Unfortunately, Clear Skies was killed by radicals in the environmental movement because it didn't require reductions in carbon - in other words, it didn't cause enough economic pain. In 2005, when the Bush administration issued mercury regulations under the Clean Air Act, they also fell victim to environmental groups' court challenges.
So today, we would do well to remember that it is Republicans who first sought to reduce mercury and it's the environmental establishment that has stopped progress for more than a decade.
We now debate EPA's replacement regulations. But this time, no attempt has been made to balance environmental protection and economic development. In fact, the Utility MACT rule is at the heart of the Obama Administration's war on affordable energy. Mirroring Obama's cap and trade agenda, this regulation isn't about saving lives or the environment. It's part of a calculated effort to kill traditional forms of energy, like coal, to benefit Obama's political allies. Backed by false claims and EPA propaganda, this regulation will fulfill Obama's campaign promise of skyrocketing electricity rates.
Today, we're going to hear about the benefits of this rule ad nauseam. These claims are disingenuous and misleading. The rule is ostensibly designed to reduce hazardous air pollutants (HAP), namely mercury. But over 99 percent of the benefits claimed by EPA are from reducing fine particle matter (PM) - not mercury - even though PM is strictly regulated under other CAA programs, including the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM2.5. Worse yet, nearly all of EPA's alleged benefits occur at levels well below the NAAQS. This means EPA is justifying the rule by cleaning up what it simultaneously defines as clean air - duplicity at its best.
In fact, EPA's analysis shows us that mercury is the only HAP where any health benefits can be quantified. These benefits are estimated to be $6 million per year - at the most. At an estimated cost of nearly $10 billion, the benefits are exceeded by approximately 1,600 to 1. You can see the gulf between benefits and costs in this chart, which I request be entered into the record.
This rule isn't about public health. It's about one thing - killing coal - as a gift to Obama's political allies: the environmental movement and crony capitalists who profit through government intervention. The Obama Administration could not pass cap and trade, so it is using EPA regulations to back-door its global warming agenda.
As we will hear from our witnesses today, working families will pay the price. Indeed, the plant being closed in Avon Lake, OH, is but one example of what is happening in cities and towns across the country as a result of EPA's rules. In fact, as of today, nearly 22 Gigawatts (that's the equivalent of approximately 50 medium-sized plants) operating 20 states are slated to shut down, with more expected. These closures have been projected to increase electricity prices by as much as 20 percent, sending a ripple effect though the economy that could kill up to 1.64 million jobs. You can see the impact on retail electricity prices in this poster. I ask that both this poster and the underlying study be added to the record.
EPA's environmental allies blame the plants' closing on natural gas prices and other market factors. But nearly every company closing plants has pointed directly at EPA's rules as the reason. Admitting as much, Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a recent interview, "EPA's role is ... to level the playing field" so that coal-fired generation costs more relative to alternatives. This quote nicely captures EPA's global warming agenda - use the power of the government to destroy one sector of the economy so that others may profit.
This regulation needs to be stopped. This is why I have introduced a resolution of disapproval which seeks to overturn Utility MACT. Contrary to claims, however, it doesn't amend the Clean Air Act or keep the agency from regulating mercury. Rather, it would send the rule back to EPA to be rewritten in a manner consistent with Congressional direction - namely, in a way that reduces emissions but that doesn't unnecessarily kill jobs so that others may profit.