By Laura Sheehan
July 28, 2014 at 5:00 am ET
This week EPA will hold public hearings on its newly proposed carbon regulations for existing power plants in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. The goal of these public hearings, ostensibly, is to provide citizens of the United States “the opportunity to present data, views or arguments concerning the proposed action.” While it is laudable that EPA is going to four cities to seek input, it is simultaneously troubling that such an important conversation to all Americans is being held with so few. Even more troubling is that those states that stand to be the most affected are largely being ignored and shut out of the conversation altogether.
For example, we won’t see a hearing held in Kentucky where coal accounts for 93 percent of the state’s power generation. Same holds true for West Virginia where coal-generated electricity is even higher at 95 percent. As EPA’s proposal stands to affect every single person and business in this country, more meetings are justifiably needed to ensure all parties are heard.
If more accessible meetings are not held, we all should be demanding to know why the EPA is willing to put a rule in place that will dramatically increase electricity costs and eliminate millions of jobs but is unwilling to visit the states and communities that will pay the heaviest price of its proposed regulations.
This type of outcry will likely not occur and if it did the EPA would likely once again turn a deaf ear to Americans’ concerns as they did during their so-called listening sessions on new power plants last fall. So, those who want to publicly voice their concern will be left with the choice of either driving hours to another state to get three minutes of speaking time in front of agency officials, or submit a comment online that will be filed away, whether it is read is another matter. Neither option is ideal, but sadly these are the choices at hand.
In addition to the problems associated with holding hearings in just four cities, the comment period is a mere 120 days, which isn’t nearly lengthy enough to garner the level of input necessary to inform such an impactful rule. Simply put we need more – more time, more cities and more input from more voices before this proposed rule goes anywhere. EPA needs to hear from small business owners that will not be able to afford their energy bills, miners who will lose their jobs and families who will have to choose between food on the table or staying cool in the dog days of summer and warm during the coldest of nights. With a projected price tag of more than $150 billion in higher electricity bills for consumers, much more, indeed, must be discussed.
Consumer costs aside there are a host of other concerns with EPA’s proposal. EPA has listed building block targets for states that are not achievable at a reasonable cost, nor have they been demonstrated to be as such. In some cases, they haven’t even been proven to be achievable at any cost. If these targets are technologically unachievable, then we need to seek other alternatives and stop impeding our progress on advancing clean coal technologies. By embracing all available energy sources, a better energy future can be ensured and the energy independence within our reach can be realized.
Make no mistake, EPA’s hearing sessions are necessary but holding only four will result in nothing more than a box checked off a to-do list. Only by holding more hearings in locations that will be disproportionately affected by EPA’s proposed regulation, can it begin to better understand the implications of their plan. Likewise, if the comment period is extended, states will have more time to examine the regulation and understand how it will affect their constituents and economies. This country needs an “all of the above” energy portfolio, and these regulations are most definitely an “all but one” approach. In order to keep electricity bills low, jobs in place and our hard won manufacturing renaissance alive and well, EPA needs to listen to as many American voices as possible before enforcing a rule with such far-reaching effects. If they take the correct approach to their listening, they will hear cries across the nation for abundant, affordable and reliable coal-based electricity, which keeps prices down and our lights on.