New Battle

New Environmental Protection Agency rules will drive the cost of electricity up 4 percent this year and an additional 13 percent by 2020, the U.S. Energy Department said last week. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The forecast does not include pending EPA rules that will make it virtually impossible to open new coal-fired power plants, the DOE admitted.

It is a strategy, of course. EPA officials know the tens of millions of Americans affected by increasing electricity prices are less likely to complain if the higher charges are implemented a little at a time.

By the time consumers realize the war on coal has forced electric bills through the ceiling, it will be too late.

But time may be on the side of more thoughtful Americans, including some members of the U.S. Senate.

Obama and the EPA have enjoyed substantial success in gaining the courts’ backing for their war against coal and affordable electricity rates. But what is legal is not always right.

Americans need new generating stations, both to replace old units being retired and to meet increasing demand for electricity. If Obama and the EPA have their way, not one of the new power plants will be fueled by coal. As members of Congress including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., have pointed out, the EPA’s proposed carbon emissions rules were designed so that no new coal-fired power plant can meet them.

The technology simply does not exist.

As we have reported, implementation of the new rules will increase the average cost of electricity in West Virginia from the current 9 cents per kilowatt-hour to 15 cents, according to the state Division of Energy.

In other words, if your monthly electric bill now is $125, it will go up to more than $200 – or by about $900 a year.

Worried officials in many states have continued to join in lawsuits against the EPA, despite the probability that eventually, the courts will uphold the agency. It is that word – “eventually” – that gives those worried about the war on coal and reasonable electricity rates hope.

Elections this fall may well tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate in favor of lawmakers who want to stop the EPA. They already have a majority in the House of Representatives. Any bill aimed at curbing the agency would be vetoed by Obama, however.

But the president has less than three years left in his term. If those battling the EPA in court can delay implementation of the new rules that long, the agency can be reined in.

This is a situation, then, in which opponents of the EPA should keep up the pressure because, while they may lose battles in court, it still is possible to win the war.