The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 04, 2014

Union contractors doing slow burn over coal plant rules

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON – A “Clean Power Plant Proposal” released June 2 by the Obama Administration is a blueprint for the Environmental Protection Agency to cut carbon pollution from the power plant sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The EPA says its “common sense” proposal that “will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.” Union contractors, concerned about the availability of work in building and servicing the nation’s fleet of coal-burning plants, are angry about the prospect of the rules going into place.

According to the Association of Union Constructors, “many American coal-fired power plants will find it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to comply with the rule, forcing them to either shut down or convert wholesale to less dependable and more price-volatile fuel sources. With this proposal, EPA continues to stack the deck against coal-fired generation, which supplies roughly 40 percent of the nation’s power.”

The EPA’s new rules are also intended to cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent. Overall the rules would be equal to reducing the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year.

“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source – power plants,. By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.”

The Association of Union Constructors says it is “a strong proponent of sensible emissions regulations,” with its member-contractors having “played a crucial role in improving America’s air quality by installing cutting-edge technology to reduce harmful emissions at hundreds of U.S. coal-fired power plants and manufacturing facilities.” But the association fears the EPA’s proposed rule will result in less work for contractors because “the cost of compliance will be so high that many coal-fired power plants will simply shut down or move away from coal altogether rather than go bankrupt trying to meet the unrealistic new limits.”

The New York Times reported on June 1 that experts predicted the rule would result in the closure of hundreds of coal-fired plants.

Stephen Lindauer, CEO of The Association of Union Contractors, said the EPA’s is proposing “the same old stale, misguided anti-coal proposals that have long been championed by environmental extremists. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this episode before, and we know that it ends badly for our member contractors, their partners in the building trades unions and businesses and consumers across America. As proposed, this rule will severely endanger our country’s energy independence and economic stability. And to add insult to injury, at the end of the day it will have very little impact on overall greenhouse gas emissions.”

America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey also weighed in, negatively, on the proposed EPA rules. “Our unions,” he said, “are concerned that these rules, insomuch as they are proposed on an accelerated and unrealistic timetable for implementation, will cost us in higher electricity rates, in lost jobs, and in lost business growth due to a lack of affordable, reliable electricity.

“What these rules fail to acknowledge is that until large-scale renewable energy sources and their storage capabilities become commercially viable, the notion that we can meet our baseload energy needs through renewables is nothing short of fantasy.

“Equally frustrating is that we must bear witness to EPA, in effect, crafting national energy policy via regulatory fiat because our elected officials lack the political courage to develop a comprehensive energy policy.  As a result, our nation is being forced, by a small band of federal bureaucrats beholden to radical environmentalists, to pick ‘winners’ and ‘losers,’ with the losers falling disproportionately among a middle class that is sure to see higher energy costs and fewer opportunities for well-paying jobs.”