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Utility MACT rule damaging to U.S. Power Plants

According to the EPA, the new Utility MACT rule will bring large health and economic benefits to the country. The Utility MACT rule is estimated to save $37 billion to $90 billion each year in human health benefits. The Utility MACT rule is estimated to reduce 90 percent of all mercury emitted by coal plants. 

Under this new rule power plants will need to maintain and update existing emission controls and install new pollution controls such as wet or dry scrubbers, activated carbon injections, and baghouse/fabric filters. As a result of this new regulation, the EPA estimates 46,000 short‐term construction jobs and 8,000 long‐term utility jobs will be created. Rather than view the bigger picture and the substantial job losses from coal-fired plants shutting down, EPA focuses on a small portion of the market to justify the economic benefits of the rule.  And even this analysis may be flawed—if the costs of the new technologies are prohibitive as suggested by suppliers, there will very little job growth.

Jobs created within a free market are controlled by the voluntary decisions made by the supplier and consumer. Jobs created by the government are the result of coercive action. In this instance, the government is forcing power plants to take actions they would otherwise not take. This means that the new jobs that the Utility MACT rule will create are dependent not on the voluntary decisions of the supplier and consumer, but by the coercive action of the government. Although the Utility MACT rule may create short term jobs in narrow sectors of the economy, it puts unwanted costs on the power plants and electricity providers. These unwanted costs have a much more expansive impact on the economy compared to the few new jobs identified by the EPA.  As energy costs go up, consumers have less income to make other purchases, businesses must cover the costs of higher electricity prices, and producers will have to pay more to create their final goods.  And those producing coal may be completely out of work as the costs of using coal become prohibitive.  Together, this generates a negative shock to the economy and employment, with some estimates suggesting up to 1.65 million jobs will be lost.

The negative effects of the Utility MACT rule on the economy have been established, but what about the health benefits that Utility MACT provides? Could it be argued that the health benefits outweigh the cost of the Utility MACT rule on the economy? This question is much harder to definitively answer, but one important point can be made. The health costs of unemployment outweigh the health risks used by the EPA to justify the rule. Unemployment is known to positively increase risk factors associated with mental disorder, suicide, alcohol abuse, cardiovascular disease, and life expectancy according to Dr. Harvey Brenner’s testimony before Congress this past year. (Dr. Harvey Brenner is a Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of North Texas). The only way the EPA can generate health benefits is by counting the benefits of reducing particulate matter.  But this is already regulated under a different regulation, so the EPA is double counting the benefits to justify this costly new rule.

What can be done to stop the Utility MACT?  Support S.J Res. 37 introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe! Sen. Jim Inhofe, recognizing the tragic affects that Utility MACT will have on our economy, introduced this resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). If passed, this resolution would overturn the EPA’s costly regulation. Under the CRA, slow procedural hurdles are eliminated and the resolution of disapproval can pass the Senate with a simple majority.  Call your Senator right now and ask them to support S.J Res. 37 in order to save American jobs and our economy.