WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’ll be next week before the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new emissions limits for existing coal-fired power plants are released, but those with the country’s largest business lobbying group are already claiming the regulations will be devastating for both the U.S. economy and West Virginia’s economy.
A new study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released Wednesday, showed proposals that would reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent before 2030 would shutdown a third of current coal capacity and could result in economic losses of as much as $50 billion a year and the elimination of as many as 224,000 jobs.
“You start looking at close to home there in West Virginia, you’re looking at — on an annual basis in the South Atlantic, it includes Appalachia — a $10 billion hit every year and 60,000 jobs lost every year,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
“This is a big, economy-wide hit.”
On Monday, President Barack Obama is expected to personally unveil a new set of federal regulations from the EPA for existing coal-fired power plants designed to slow climate change. In general, the EPA proposals could give states a target for emission reductions with a deadline to meet that target, though the details have not been released.
The EPA has already proposed emissions limits for any new plants that are built.
According to supporters of the soon-to-be proposed regulations from the EPA, reducing emissions from existing plants in the U.S. will slow down climate change and give the U.S. more leverage to negotiate international emissions limits at a cost that — if you consider the $50 billion in the Chamber analysis — is .31 percent of the total U.S. gross domestic product.
Harbert dismissed that. “If we show what this does to our economy, is any other country going to want to follow us when they look at the type of job losses and economic losses? That would scare them into doing, probably, the exact opposite,” she said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“The idea that the United States can come in and just solve this problem on its own is just absolutely incorrect.”
On Thursday, the Natural Resources Defense Council will release its own economic study showing the EPA proposals could potentially create thousands of jobs while lowering power bills in the long run because states may get a good amount of discretion in implementing the emissions reductions.
The conclusions of the two groups are much different, even though the Chamber hired IHS Energy — an independent research firm — to analyze a plan the NRDC released back in 2012. Members of the Obama Administration’s EPA reportedly considered that plan while developing the new emissions limits.
It will take at least a year to finalize any regulations that come from the EPA next week. Public comments will be collected during that time period.