WASHINGTON — Wyoming senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso today cast votes in favor of striking down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that will cost $10 billion annually to implement while providing $6 million in benefits related to mercury reductions from coal plants.
The Wyoming vote was not enough to cast out the Utility MACT rule
, called such because it requires coal plants to use Maximum Achievable Control Technology in operations. The Senate voted down opposition to the rule, which Enzi called "the only legislative vehicle available to stop the Utility MACT rule from moving forward." The tally was close at 46-53, with 50 votes required to vote down the EPA rule. Voting largely occurred along party lines with all but five republican senators opposing the rule, with a sixth who did not vote, and all but four democrats supporting it.
Many claim the rule, also called the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule, has the potential to shut down many coal plants that simply cannot meet the stringent standards.
"Since being sworn into office, President Obama's rule-making machine has released rule after rule designed to make it more expensive to use coal," Enzi said. "The cost-benefit ratio of the Utility MACT rule, assuming the EPA's best-case scenario, is 1,600-1. These costs would be passed on to consumers and will result in higher electricity prices. The administration's greenhouse gas standard would make it impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in the United States."
One study by the National Economic Research Associates estimates the rule will cost between 180,000 and 215,000 job losses by 2015. It also found the rule would increase electricity rates by 6.5 percent on average and by as much as 19.1 percent in some areas of the country.
"If the Utility MACT rule is allowed to proceed," Barrasso said, "it would mandate that virtually no new coal-fired power plants could be built anymore in the United States. Many still in existence would have to shut down."
Gov. Matt Mead also opposed the EPA rule.
"By EPA's own analysis, the annual reoccurring net loss of jobs as a result of these rules is up to 17,000," Mead once said of the rule. "With the host of proposed and implemented rules there will be a severe negative net effect on jobs and the economy. This cumulative impact should have been analyzed by the EPA."
Standing in support of the MACT rule, the U.S. Conference of Mayors,
the largest nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of at least 30,000, urged senators to vote to keep the rule, claiming it would improve city air quality. CNBC.com
reported that the EPA expects the rules will prevent up to 11,000 deaths annually and save the average American $3-$9 in health costs for every dollar spent to reduce pollution.
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