MO Chamber Asks Senators to Block Tougher EPA Rules

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The Missouri Chamber of Commerce President urged the state’s U.S. Senators yesterday to block the EPA’s proposed rules to curb more toxic emissions from power plants.

In a letter to senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, Daniel Mehan, the president of the Chamber, asked them to vote this week for a Senate resolution that which would kill the EPA’s “Utility MACT Rules” regulating mercury and others toxic emissions. The rules would affect 18 Missouri coal-fired power plants.

Mehan called the rules “shortsighted”and said MACT would result in thousands of lost jobs, higher electric rates, and a less reliable electric grid for the nation.

“It is unrealistic to think that power plants can comply with this rule within three years and even if they could, at what cost?” Mehan wrote.

Missouri has the 7th cheapest residential electric rates in the country. More than 80% of Missouri’s electric power is generated by coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For the nation as a whole, coal contributes almost half that, making up 45% of the country’s energy portfolio.

Mehan’s comments add to a passionate national conversation over federal regulation of coal fired power plants. While Mehan touts coal’s economic importance, others say the costs are higher than the savings benefits provided by coal-generated power.

A report released last week by the nonpartisan “Environmental Integrity Project” examined the health costs of coal fired power plants with high pollutant emissions. The study focused on 51 plants with the highest emissions of sulfur dioxide. That list included Ameren’s Meramec power plant near St. Louis.

Using EPA data for emissions and methods for measuring health costs often used by the EPA as well, the study found that between 57 and 110 premature deaths could be attributed the Meramec plant. The costs of those deaths could be between $500 million and nearly $1 billion. Nationwide the health costs from premature deaths from the 51 plants could be nearly $50 billion. Ameren officials didn’t return phone calls for comment on the report.

According to the EPA, the proposed standards would prevent 410 premature deaths and create $3.4 billion in health benefits in Missouri.

In a press conference held last week by the Environmental Integrity Project, executive director Eric Schaeffer said, “So 40 years after the Clean Air Act first became law, our country still has a backlog of old and very inefficient coal fired power plants that operate without up-to-date pollution controls.”

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