Are EPA's clean-air rules putting an end to the coal industry?
That's what some congressional Republicans and coal-industry executives claim about the Environmental Protection Agency's numerous clean-air rules. Several regulations EPA has issued in the last three years, and most recently its greenhouse-gas rules for new power plants proposed last week, will make it more expensive to build new coal plants. Other recently finalized clean-air rules are also likely to make it more expensive to run existing coal plants, which right now account for nearly 50 percent of the nation's electricity.
EPA, some independent experts, and environmentalists maintain that the market is already shifting away from coal to natural gas, which is at near-record-low prices and emits fewer air pollutants than coal. Natural gas accounts for just a quarter of U.S. electricity.
Are EPA rules the reason the coal industry is declining? Or is natural gas and other market forces the cause? Is EPA doing enough to regulate pollution from coal-generated electricity? Should Congress or the Obama administration provide more money for promoting and researching clean-coal technology?