Continuing its direct assault on jobs under the guise of protecting the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published a new regulation seeking to lower mercury emissions from coal-and oil-fired power plants. What the rule is really designed to do is close down power plants that provide affordable and reliable energy to Pennsylvania consumers. The President himself has said he wants to saddle these plant operators with so many costly new regulations that it would "necessarily bankrupt them." This new rule isn't about reducing mercury emissions, it's going around Congress because they rejected cap-and-trade and using the EPA to shut down power plants.

The rule, opaquely dubbed Utility MACT, is the most expensive regulation ever published by the United States Government. This isn't just some conservative talking point; the EPA itself estimates the rule will cost $11 billion per year to implement, though independent estimates range much higher.

In Pennsylvania, we get 48 percent of our electricity from coal-fired plants, so it's no surprise that as coal plants close our electricity prices will go up by as much as 17 percent. Moreover, when combined with other onerous EPA rules, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity estimates that the new emissions controls will cost Pennsylvania 59,000 jobs over the next few years. We simply can't afford these costly mandates.

Controlling dangerous pollution is indeed an important goal, but in this case it turns out that the supposed public health benefits are largely made up - EPA based its "scientific findings" on a study of Faroe Island women who consume a diet consisting almost entirely of high-mercury whale meat and blubber. Moreover, U.S. coal-fired plants contribute only 0.5 percent of total mercury emissions worldwide; natural sources like volcanoes, geysers, and forest fires contribute 200 times more mercury to the atmosphere. It simply doesn't make sense to slap on these devastating regulations for no real environmental or health benefit.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate will soon have an opportunity to overturn this nonsensical EPA rule. Senator Jim Inhofe - a Republican from another big coal state, Oklahoma - has introduced a resolution of disapproval that would stop the EPA in its tracks.

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has already expressed support for overturning Utility MACT. I haven't yet heard a similar commitment from our other Senator - Bob Casey - but he has expressed concern for Pennsylvania energy sector jobs in the past.

There's a clear opportunity for our representatives in Washington, DC to stand up for Pennsylvania's families and businesses and vote to reject this new regulation. The more than 109,000 Americans for Prosperity activists right here in Pennsylvania will be watching that vote very closely to see whether our senators will block the most economically damaging regulation ever to come out of the EPA.

Jennifer Stefano

Pennsylvania State Director

for Americans for Prosperity