A host of Montana officials and business groups, from Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to Republican Attorney General Tim Fox to the Montana Chamber of Commerce blasted President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday in the wake of the announcement of a final rule — or “Clean Power Plan”– on power plant carbon emissions.
“At first glance, it looks as though the Obama administration has moved the goal post on us,” Gov. Bullock said in statement released by his office. “I am extremely disappointed by this. I understand that we need to address climate change but how we do so has to work for Montana.”
Bullock’s concerns about how the rule would work for Montana were echoed by Attorney General Tim Fox.
“President Obama is attempting to unilaterally impose a national energy policy rather than work with the people’s representatives through the legislative process. This was my concern last winter when I and 16 other state attorneys general wrote EPA Administrator McCarthy,” Fox stated in a press release. “Moreover, as Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote and I told the EPA in December, these regulations were crafted without any meaningful input from those who will suffer the most economic harm from them, including our very own Crow Nation.”
U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) also released a statement saying that “Montana knows best how to manage our power” and “the EPA’s supposed ‘Clean Power Plan’ will kill good-paying union jobs and drive up costs for Montana families and small businesses.”
The new carbon emissions regulations on power plants are being implemented under Rule 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which requires states to create performance standards for carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants and then submit those plans for approval from the EPA. Under the final rule, state plans altogether would have to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
States will have until 2022 to comply with the cuts. The plan sets state by state targets for emissions. Overall, the rule would mean a drastic reduction in the use of coal for power generation. Coal still accounts for nearly 40 percent of U.S. power generation according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). EIA also notes that fossil fuels accounted for two-thirds of U.S. power generation in 2014.
While the Obama Administration claims that the regulation in necessary to combat climate change, Montana, which contains the nation’s largest coal reserves, is poised to take a hit in its coal industry and see higher energy costs.
The energy industry group, Energy Ventures Analysis, analyzed the potential impact of several recent EPA rules, including the Clean Power Plan as original proposed in 2014, which mandated only a 30 percent cut by 2030. EVA found that the average Montana power and gas bill would increase 31 percent by 2020, and the overall cost of power and gas in the state would grow 53 percent from about $1.6 billion in 2012 to $2.4 billion in 2020.
The potential negative economic impact was highlighted by Montana Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Director Glenn Oppel.
“In addition to jeopardizing thousands of well-paying mining jobs, higher energy costs will also hurt job creation in energy-intensive industries such as agriculture and manufacturing,” Oppel said in a statement. “And we all know that less economic activity and job growth will mean less tax revenue for local and state government, requiring either a shift in taxes to homeowners and small businesses or drastic spending cuts.”
Oppel aslo pointed out that, by the Administration’s own admission, greenhouse gas emissions would only decrease by 1 percent.
“What we have here is a classic case of the costs far outweighing the benefits,” Oppel continued.
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