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EPA ruling comes too late for some power plants

WHEELING, W.Va. — As electricity producers turn off power plants and coal miners wait in the unemployment line, officials in West Virginia and Ohio applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision against the Environmental Protection Agency regulations on mercury emissions.

Struck down Monday, the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards comprise a different set of rules than the agency’s Clean Power Plan, which is a strategy to cut carbon dioxide emissions. However, to comply with the mercury rules, American Electric Power shut down 5,535 megawatts of coal-fired power last month, including the 630-megawatt Kammer Plant in Marshall County.

“We are pleased that the court recognized that costs are an important component of rational agency decision-making,” AEP spokeswoman Tammy Ridout said. “The MATS rule remains in effect unless otherwise ordered by the D.C. Circuit Court, and there has been no change in AEP’s ongoing compliance activities.”

Still, elected leaders in both Ohio and West Virginia saw the Monday decision as a win in their battle to ensure that coal-fired electricity and the thousands of jobs that accompany the industry remain viable.

“The EPA should go back to the drawing board on all their costly regulations and ensure hardworking families are put ahead of their radical agenda,” Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said. “This decision is a strong rebuke of the EPA’s overreach and will force the Obama administration to consider the true costs to businesses and families of complying with these burdensome regulations.”

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said the EPA should consider how many people the agency’s actions are going put out of work before enacting them.

“No one cares more about the air we breathe and the water we drink than the people who live here in along the Ohio River. However, there must be a balance between health regulation and excessive costs that would have a chilling impact on coal jobs and the cost of electricity in eastern and southeastern Ohio,” he said.

“By forcing dozens of coal-fired power plants to close, the EPA’s job-killing regulations have already had a devastating impact on jobs, energy prices, the reliability of our power supply, our coal mining industry and most importantly our families in West Virginia and across this nation,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in reference to the AEP plant closures.

Murray Energy officials said they are pleased with the decision.

“Indeed, the Obama EPA will also be unable to justify its so-called Clean Power Plan, which similarly imposes billions of dollars in costs, with no discernible environmental benefit whatsoever,” Murray spokesman Gary Broadbent said regarding the additional CO2 regulations Murray plans to keep fighting.

“Going forward, states should not be forced to bear the brunt of other costly EPA regulations before legal challenges are complete,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said.

“As we have maintained for years, the EPA far too often fails to consider the impact its mandates have on jobs and the economies of both our state and our nation,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin added.

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