By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – The leader of a Missouri industrial organization calls U.S. senators “short-sighted” for voting against a resolution to block new Environmental Protection Agency standards for power plants.
Associated Industries of Missouri President Ray McCarty told Missouri Watchdog Thursday that the new standards will prove costly to both businesses and consumers.
“It’s a bad deal,” he said. “It means utility costs will rise for everyone in Missouri.”
The EPA rule, known as Maximum Available Control Technology, will limit power plant emissions of a number of airborne contaminants, including arsenic and mercury. The agency estimates it will save billions in health care costs, but could also make power rates rise significantly across the United States — by more than 6 percent for some Missouri residents.
The vote against the rule, which failed 53-46 on Wednesday, split Missouri’s senators, with Republican Roy Blunt voting for it and Democrat Claire McCaskill voting against it.
The result drew praise from environmentalists. John Hickey, director of the Sierra Club’s Missouri chapter, said in a statement after the vote that “big coal is barred from pumping more toxics into the air we breathe and the water we drink, preventing thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of asthma attacks every year.”
In arguing against the measure on the Senate floor, Blunt said studies have estimated it will cost U.S. industries $10 billion to comply with MACT. He said the measure is particularly harmful to the coal industry — the primary electricity source for Missouri and many other states — which must install advance scrubbers and other anti-pollution equipment to come within the new guidelines.
“What this really stands for is an assault on coal and coal-based industries,” Blunt said.
McCaskill’s office issued a statement that said she is working on a compromise that would give industry six years to comply with the regulations rather than the three-year window set forth in MACT.
The EPA estimates economic value of health benefits for Missourians of $1.4 billion to $3.4 billion in a study of the new regulations (page 5-D5), but it also said state residents can expect an increase in power costs of 2.8 to 6.3 percent (pages 3-24 and 3-25).
McCarty told Watchdog he expects the price increases to be higher.
“That’s the EPA estimating its own costs so it will probably go up more than that,” he said.