EPA’s Shocking Justification for Retiring up to 25% of U.S. Coal Fleet

by William Yeatman on April 1, 2014

in Blog

Post image for EPA’s Shocking Justification for Retiring up to 25% of U.S. Coal Fleet

Last week, the EIA published a little-noticed analysis estimating that up to 25 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plant fleet could be forced to retire due to the EPA’s 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule, also known as the “Utility MACT.” Above, I’ve re-posted a chart that summarizes EIA’s findings.

Needless to say, these are significant retirements. While it’s true that EPA performed a reliability analysis of its Utility MACT, the Agency’s work was shredded by analysts at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Notably, many of the coal plants in the northeast that are slated for retirement were called into service during the unusually cold winter of 2013-2014. Had they not been available, electricity and heating costs would have “skyrocketed.” After 2015, these plants will be shut down permanently. For more, see this recent New York Times article, “Coal to the Rescue, But Maybe Not Next Winter.” And those electricity generating units that decide to comply with the utility MACT, rather than retire, will be on the hook for almost $10 billion in annual compliance costs through 2020. Taking into account these direct and indirect costs, this is one of the most expensive regulations, ever.

That’s a description of some of the costs of the Utility MACT. Now, let’s turn to the “benefits,” which I’ve summarized in the graphic below.

coal retirments foto2

That’s no joke: The actual justification for the Utility MACT, one of the most expensive and consequential regulations of all time, is to protect a supposed population of pregnant subsistence fisherwomen, who consume hundreds of pounds of self-caught fish from exclusively the most polluted inland bodies of fresh water. Don’t take my word for it! Below, I’ve posted this “evidence” of harm, as presented by the EPA.

coal retirments foto3


Notably, EPA never identified a single member of this putative population of super-angler, pregnant women, who feed exclusively off self-caught fish from polluted bodies in water, despite the abundance of warnings, in multiple languages, posted about the river or lake where these amazing ladies do their sustenance fishing. Rather, they are modeled to exist. I, for one, posit that they don’t exist, and that EPA’s actual justification for the Utility MACT is the waging of a “war on coal” on behalf the environmental orgnaizations who helped President Obama get elected. That is, this regulation is nothing more than quid pro quo special interest politics.


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