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July 12, 2014

FLASHPOINT: EPA proposal will have little impact on environment, but could hurt coal industry

I recently signed on as an original co-sponsor to a bipartisan bill led by one of my Democrat colleagues from West Virginia that would stop the newly released Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on existing coal-generated power plants.

Here is why.  

Put simply, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial argued that the EPA’s 3,000 page proposal is effectively a “huge indirect tax and wealth redistribution scheme that the EPA is imposing by fiat [that] will profoundly touch every American.”

We all remember then-Senator Barack Obama’s 2008 promise that under his plan of cap-and-trade, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Unfortunately for Indiana, this is one of the few promises that the President plans to keep.

When asked by Bill Maher if the new proposal should be considered a “War on Coal,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy proudly responded with, “That’s exactly what this is.”

President Obama is attempting to implement these regulations unilaterally, because similar rules could not make it out of a Democrat-controlled Congress and lack support today from the Democrat-controlled Senate. This proposal is bad public policy with the potential to negatively affect every American in one way or another.

I have always said that I support an all-of-the-above approach to our energy portfolio; however, the Administration is simply picking winners and losers.

As a father of four and a physician who has cared for countless patients throughout Southern Indiana, I want everyone to be able to live a healthy life. That includes drinking clean water and breathing clean air, but we cannot let ideology get in the way of the facts.

Studies have repeatedly shown that these proposals will have no statistically significant impact on global temperatures or positive impact on global emissions.

The regulations, which are based on EPA research and data not made available to the public, fail to account for the billions of dollars that plants have already invested to update their operations and limit emissions. Meanwhile, the Administration continues to force unattainable standards on power plants that have the potential to put Hoosiers out of work, increase the price of electricity, and put us at a competitive disadvantage at a time when foreign countries are investing in coal power.  

Indiana is among the top 10 coal producing states in the country.

We have approximately 24 active coal operations located here in Southwest Indiana and the Wabash Valley. In fact, every single Hoosier coal mine is located in the Eighth Congressional District. We power the state.

Furthermore, the coal industry supports over 9,000 direct jobs and almost 20,000 indirect jobs here in Indiana. These are good-paying jobs that support families.

Analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts that these regulations could cost the economy 224,000 annual jobs, lower disposable income for families by $583 billion, and take an average $51 billion annually from our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through 2030.

Our challenges are not just limited to families involved in the coal industry. It affects all Hoosiers. Here in Indiana, we enjoy an abundance of cheap energy. Nearly 85 percent of our state’s electricity is coal-generated and our electric rates are lower than the national average.  

The projected cutback due to the regulations will cause energy rates to skyrocket, impacting families at home and the grocery store, and even families who rely on electric powered vehicles.

As a Northern Indiana newspaper put it, “these strict new standards would clobber consumers with higher electric bills.”

In addition, the cost to do business for our state’s manufacturing base (an industry that supports one out of every five Hoosier jobs) would dramatically increase, putting even more jobs at risk.  

The Indiana Manufacturers Association estimates these regulations will add $600 million in electricity costs for Hoosier factories.

I know how high the stakes are for families facing the potential of losing work. I grew up in a small, coal-mining town. My father was a coal miner and many of my high school friends went to work at Peabody Mine No. 10. After the mine closed, I saw many of my friends struggle to make ends meet after losing the certainty of their job at the coal mine.

I am fighting in Washington, D.C. to make sure that Hoosier families never have to experience what my friends in Kincaid, Ill., did. And I am fighting to protect families who are doing everything they can to make ends meet and can’t afford for their electricity bills to “necessarily” skyrocket to fulfill a campaign promise to radical environmentalists.

Rep. Larry Bucshon is a heart surgeon serving his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lives in Newburgh in Warrick County.

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