Environmental Protection Agency

The Senate will soon be called upon to disallow a multibillion-dollar regulation at the core of the Obama Administration’s twisted green energy regime. If allowed to stand, the so-called Utility MACT rule threatens to produce energy shortages, raise electricity rates, and destroy a multitude of jobs.

Concocted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 210-page regulation requires utilities and other electricity generators fueled by fossil fuels (gasp!) to install the “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) to limit emissions of mercury and other byproducts of combustion.

The EPA estimates the rule will cost $9.6 billion annually, to be paid by utilities and customers alike for new equipment, monitoring and reporting, loss of generating capacity, and higher electricity rates. Industry insiders consider the agency figures to be a lowball estimate. The health benefits, meanwhile, supposedly range from $33 billion to $81 billion—but only when accounting for unsubstantiated, indirect effects that the agency simultaneously cites to justify other regulations.

What the regulation does do is fulfill Obama’s campaign pledge to wage war on coal and make electricity prices “skyrocket.”

The Utility MACT regulation is tailor-made for the Congressional Review Act (CRA)—a procedure by which lawmakers may adopt a “resolution of disapproval” to void a rule. Senator James Inhofe (R–OK) has introduced a CRA on the Utility MACT (S.J. Res. 37), which would also require adoption by the House and the President’s signature.

The CRA has been successfully used only once—to halt an “ergonomics” rule issued by the Clinton Administration’s Labor Department. Not that there haven’t been a multitude of regulations deserving of its application. But getting both chambers of Congress and the White House to go along presents a formidable challenge, given the regulatory penchant of elected officials these days.

That’s unfortunately apparent in the case of Senator Lamar Alexander (R–TN) and Senator Mark Pryor (D–AR), who have joined with the Obama Administration in defending the Utility MACT. As if the regulatory problem is simply one of time, the two Senators are proposing to give utilities a total of six years (rather than the current four) to fully comply. But more time won’t mitigate the enormous costs of the regulation or the threat it poses to energy supplies and reliability.

Utility MACT is no ordinary regulation. So stringent are the standards that potentially dozens of coal-fired power plants will close rather than incur the unsustainable costs of compliance. All of which is made even worse by other major regulations intended to punish the use of fossil fuels recently unleashed by the Administration.

Proponents claim public health is at stake. That’s sheer nonsense. EPA’s benefits calculation is wildly overblown. For Members of Congress, the policy choice should be clear: Either they jeopardize the nation’s power grid or pull the plug on the agency’s latest power grab.