“Stop the War on Coal” Bill and Regulatory Transparency


On Friday September 21, in its last action before the election, the House voted 233-175 to pass the provocatively titled “Stop the War on Coal Act” (H.R. 3409). Although it is given little chance of passing the Senate, the act contains several proposals to reduce federal constraints on energy production and job growth.

The media have focused on the portions of the act that would change current policy. For example, here is the coverage in The Hill:

The legislation is a combination of five bills that would overturn or prevent an array of regulations that Republicans say would harm the coal industry and the economy. Among other things, it would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and prevent rules on the storage and disposal of coal ash and limit Clean Water Act rules.

It would also prevent potential Interior Department rules to toughen environmental controls on mountaintop removal coal mining, and thwart other air emissions rules, including air toxics standards for coal-fired power plants.

Republicans say the bill is needed because power companies plan to close some coal-fired plants due to the EPA’s air emissions rules, and because of additional EPA and Interior Department rules affecting coal mining. The GOP says that taken together, the Obama administration’s regulations on the industry amount to a “war on coal.”

In prior posts, we have covered much of this ground in detail, including the dangers of the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and other air emission standards, as well as Utility MACT regulations. In the present post, we want to focus on a particularly interesting feature of H.R. 3409, namely its “Title III: Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on Nation.” The following excerpt gives an idea of what this section proposes:


  • (a) Establishment- The President shall establish a committee…to analyze and report on the cumulative and incremental impacts of certain rules and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency…


  • (b) Contents- The Committee shall include in each analysis conducted under this section the following:

◦    (1) Estimates of the impacts of the covered rules and covered actions with regard to–

▪    (A) the global economic competitiveness of the United States, particularly with respect to energy intensive and trade sensitive industries;

▪    (B) other cumulative costs and cumulative benefits, including evaluation through a general equilibrium model approach;

▪    (C) any resulting change in national, State, and regional electricity prices;

▪    (D) any resulting change in national, State, and regional fuel prices;

▪    (E) the impact on national, State, and regional employment during the 5-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, and also in the long term, including secondary impacts associated with increased energy prices and facility closures; and

▪    (F) the reliability and adequacy of bulk power supply in the United States.

The transparency on the EPA requirement is intriguing, since the EPA so often imposes onerous reporting rules on private businesses. This section of the Act turns the tables, as it were, and forces the EPA into the awkward position of quantifying the actual impacts of its proposals on items such as competitiveness, small business, and so forth.

To give an example of why these exercises can be humorous at the very least, the EPA was forced to admit that the new standards for light-duty truck greenhouse gas emissions would cost American consumers $36 billion in higher vehicle prices in the year 2030 alone, but would only reduce mean global temperatures by 0.02 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.  (That’s not a typo: They actually reported that their models projected a reduction of 2 one-hundredths of a degree, and that’s the upper bound of their range.)

The House-approved “Stop the War on Coal Act” contains many proposals that dovetail with the warnings outlined at this website concerning the federal government’s regulatory overreach. One of the more interesting ideas is to force the government to officially report the impact EPA policies will have on energy prices, job growth, and other issues of concern to Americans.

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