The EPA’s new carbon emissions rule is aimed at shutting down the nation’s remaining coal-fired power plants, an energy industry group says, and the result will be higher electricity rates for Pennsylvanians and fewer jobs. And in recently filed legal documents, it lays out the specifics on the “irreparable harm” of the Biden administration’s regulations.

“EPA’s rule is designed with one purpose in mind: to force the premature retirement of most, if not all, coal-fired power plants in the U.S.,” said Michelle Bloodworth, president and CEO of America’s Power. “The rule would accomplish this goal by offering utilities three no-win compliance options that lead to more coal retirements. These premature retirements are a clear threat to grid reliability, as grid operators have pointed out recently, and to the economic health of the nation’s coal supply chain.”

America’s Power represents the U.S. coal fleet and its supply chain. Last month it filed its motion opposing the regulations, adding to challenges filed by 27 states and numerous other organizations.

Under the rule, existing coal-powered plants are to shutter by 2032, co-fire with natural gas before 2030, and then shutter by 2039, or install technology capable of capturing about 90 percent of carbon emissions before 2032. America’s Power, however, said the second and third options are neither technically nor economically feasible.

Coal-fired plants would need to secure approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build natural gas infrastructure. An analysis from America’s Power found the commission would need to approve more than 30 gas pipelines to meet the additional demand. It only approved five last year.

“There’s just no way that the numbers work,” said Paige Lambermont, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in the Center for Energy and Environment.

Worse, grid operators warn, those power plant shutdowns will come as demand for electricity soars under Biden administration policies to electrify more of the economy.

PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that distributes electricity throughout 13 states, including Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., said that while the organization worked with federal regulators to improve the rule, it retained significant concerns over the final language.

“There is very little evidence, other than some limited CSS projects, that this technology and associated transportation infrastructure would be widely available throughout the country in time to meet the compliance deadlines,” PJM said in a press release after the final rule was announced.

The success of the required carbon capture technology depends on local geography that can sequester the gas, the regional transmission organization said. The technology also needs pipelines to transport carbon emissions from the individual plants to storage sites that can be hundreds of miles away, PJM noted.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents the natural gas industry’s concerns, accused the U.S. EPA of “suffocating” the industry with the rule.

“The unsung hero of our power sector, natural gas has delivered record-breaking emissions reductions while strengthening the resiliency and reliability of our electric grid,” said coalition president David Callahan. “Thanks in large part to Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry, America has the tools and capabilities to meet record levels of electricity demand; however, shortsighted policies such as EPA’s proposed power plant rule stifle this ability. Instead of suffocating this industry with punitive regulations, we should be championing it by investing in its potential to deliver clean, affordable and reliable energy to American consumers.”

The America’s Power lawsuit includes declarations from several power producers which say that, based on the timing of the rule’s release, they will need to make “legally binding obligations to close power plants while the rule is being litigated.”

Power producer after power producer has laid out their bottom-line consequences from the rule in their court filings, detailing specific consequences that will be felt by their customers and employees.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative in North Dakota stated the capital costs through 2035 to come into compliance would be nearly $10 billion.

“Basin Electric will need to replace approximately 2,600 MW of baseload, dispatchable generation significantly earlier than planned as a result of the Final Rule,” the cooperative wrote. “Additional expenses resulting from the Final Rule will result in a rate increase of approximately 60 percent for [Basin] members by 2035.”

Associated Electric Cooperative, which supplies local co-ops in Missouri, Iowa, and Oklahoma, estimates its capital costs at more than $3 billion.

“Even by as early as next year, the rates that Associated Electric charges are expected to increase more than 50 percent above the increase that would be expected [without the rule],” the co-op stated. “That expected increase is due directly to the massive costs that the [coal-fired plant rule] creates.”

The 51 local electric cooperatives that Associated Electric supplies serve approximately 935,000 homes, farms, and businesses, which will see the increased rates passed onto them by their individual co-ops.

“America needs more electricity, not less. And yet the EPA is trying to kill gigawatts and gigawatts of reliable power just when demand is starting to grow,” said Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance. “That’s not speculation. The New York grid operator is warning of massive shortages because of green energy’s part-time performance. This regulation is a recipe for even higher electricity rates and increased risk for blackouts.”

The timing of the rule is not a coincidence, Lambermont said. It runs parallel with recent pushes to mandate the transition to all-electric vehicles in California, the complete electrification of the power grid, and even efforts to replace gas stoves with electric cooktops.

“Renewables get so much more air space so people forget just how much of our electric grid is based on coal and natural gas,” she said. “It’s a massive chunk, and if you phase out coal and natural gas, what comes online to replace that will be less reliable and more expensive.”

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