Free-market advocates, business owners, and citizens who are struggling with already-high utility bills are calling on New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and her fellow New England Republicans Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Scott Brown to vote to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule, designed to regulate mercury emissions from coal-powered utility plants. Ayotte has declined to state how she plans to vote on the measure. The floor vote is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20.
Billed at the most expensive regulation in EPA history – and among the most expensive across all agencies – the EPA’s own cost estimate puts the price tag for Utility MACT at $10 billion per year in compliance costs. The Agency has touted public health benefits as a key justification for the rule, however, again by its own estimates, health benefits are only projected to be worth $6 million.
American Commitment, a free-market advocacy group, has launched a $1 million ad campaign surrounding the Senate vote in key states, which include New Hampshire and Maine. The group’s President, Phil Kerpen, appeared on WGIR-AM’s Paul Westcott show on Tuesday morning to discuss the impact the Utility MACT rule would have on the Granite State and nationwide.
“Mercury has been studied by the EPA for 22 years,” noted Kerpen, continuing, “After 22 years they have found zero instances of any adverse health consequences from mercury emissions from power plants.” He contended that the real goal of the Obama EPA is to shut down the nation’s coal-fired plans, something that then-candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008.
According to Kerpen, the most immediate and troubling consequence of the rule is its impact on the already-struggling American economy. “The economic consequences of regulating mercury – which has no particular health rationale for being regulated from power plants – will be absolutely devastating,” he said, “We’re talking about electricity price increases across the country of 10, 20, in some places even more than that, Northern Ohio expects an electricity price jump of between 60 and 300 percent.”
According to Kerpen, New Hampshire’s coal-powered plant, Merrimack Station, may already be in compliance with the regulation, as nearly half a billion dollars was recently spent to outfit the plant with top-of-the-line scrubbers. However, Granite Staters and their neighbors in Maine will still likely see electric bills rise by five percent or more. Kerpen acknowledged that the number may sound comparatively small, but pointed out, “If it were a tax, people would be going nuts.”
What’s more, according to Kerpen, “The sequel to this rule, the Greenhouse Gas rule that’s going to go final right after the election will pretty much shut down all coal plants, so that will have a huge impact in New Hampshire where about a quarter of electricity comes from Merrimack Station.”
The bill to defeat the Utility MACT rule was proposed by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) under the Congressional Review Act, which allows for a simple majority vote. If passed, the EPA would be able to go back to the drawing board on mercury regulation, but would be barred from proposing a substantially similar rule.
“The New England Republicans are probably going to determine the outcome on this,” said Kerpen, “You’ve got Collins, Brown, Ayotte, and Snowe all undecided.” He argued that regardless of the state-by-state impact, Ayotte and her fellow Senators should step up and halt the Utility MACT rule because, “its the right thing to do for the country.”
Listen to the full audio of Phil Kerpen’s conversation with WGIR’s Paul Westcott here.