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Proposed EPA regulations will harm Missouri industries

by Ray McCarty, President/CEO, Associated Industries of Missouri

Energy consumers throughout the State of Missouri will soon feel the impact of recently issued regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency that seek to limit carbon emissions from the U.S. power fleet.  The EPA is requiring existing power plants to cut their emissions by 30 percent by 2030 – an incredibly difficult bar to clear. Since our state gets more than 80 percent of electricity from coal-powered plants, this mandate is detrimental to how we produce and use energy in Missouri. And since the nation as a whole gets nearly 70 percent of its power through fossil energy sources like coal and natural gas, the impacts would be felt far beyond Missouri, as well.

Policy and business leaders have been bracing for this type of rule for a while. The Obama Administration tried to implement its climate agenda through Congress in 2010, but a bill never made it to the president’s desk due to widespread bipartisan opposition. Its failure, and subsequent stinging rebuke by voters at the polls in the 2010 Congressional elections, led the administration to seek other means; in this case, implementing its agenda through regulation – not legislation.

The fact that this type of mandate is being carried out by executive branch authorization should concern all Missourians. The impact of the rule will touch every business and consumer in the country. The Obama Administration’s mandate is especially concerning in light of the fact that policy makers at the state and local levels have been willing to work on these issues, even doing so in partnership with the federal government, but have been rebuffed.  Considering the great economic costs these regulations will inflict, the fact that EPA’s proposal will do little to address global climate change is truly salt in the wound.

Earlier this year, the Missouri legislature passed legislation that was signed by Governor Nixon in July. House Bill 1631, authored by Rep. Todd Richardson of Poplar Bluff, reinforces federal law that requires emissions implementation plans to be developed where it belongs: at the state level with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Air Conservation Commission.  Enabling the state agency, created to manage these issues in the first place, to oversee such policymaking is a better and more logical prospect than having them handled by the EPA in Washington, D.C.—an organization that appears to be wildly out of touch with the priorities of Missouri consumers and businesses.

In my daily work with business owners to promote job creation and foster long-term economic stability, I’ve seen far too often how Washington bureaucrats ignore the impact of their actions at the local level.  One of the most glaring ways this manifests itself is when actions already taken by individual states and localities are disregarded. That is clearly the case in Missouri, where utilities and industries have been finding ways to diversify their energy portfolios and reduce their environmental footprint for years; efforts that, unfortunately, appear to be largely futile in the eyes of the federal government.

It is apparent that the EPA does not approve of our state’s use of low-cost fuel sources like coal and natural gas to provide electricity for our residents and businesses. But a drastic change from the system we have developed over generations could be catastrophic if not done correctly and with oversight from state regulators who best understand Missouri’s unique needs. Altering the means to provide power to our state is something that should require our input and partnership, not our acquiescence. Missouri wants to provide affordable and reliable energy to its consumers and residents. We would hope the EPA shares that desire with us.

The fact of the matter is this: fossil energy keeps Missouri operating—businesses, schools, hospitals, homes. If the EPA is intent on eliminating coal or natural gas as a source of electricity, then they must recognize the impact of their actions. Failing to understand the impact would be willfully dismissive of the foundation upon which our economy rests. Acting without understanding the impact would be tragic.

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