Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers representing metro-east constituents in Washington say a proposal that would, for the first time ever, restrict greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants would come at the expense of the coal industry in Southern Illinois and elsewhere.
The proposal announced Friday applies only to new gas-fired and coal-fired plants, not existing power plants. It is part of the Obama administration's Climate Control Plan to combat greenhouse gas pollution, which has been identified as a threat to Americans' health.
Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, said that this move would affect the single largest source of the nation's electricity. He also said that while coal emissions are lower than ever before, the standards unveiled Friday are impractical because the technology is neither affordable nor commercially available at this time.
"Instead of penalizing the coal industry, we must instead work to improve clean coal technology and bring costs down," Enyart said in a released statement. "As we do this, coal will become even more environmentally friendly."
In a joint response by both Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, the two Congressmen said the president's proposal "will kill the future for coal and raise costs for electricity in the future." They also called the proposal a ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants because there is no technology commercially available and capable of meeting these standards.
"Even if the United States reduces its carbon emissions, many other nations around the globe will continue to increase their rate of emissions, and the United States will face the harsh economic effects of this rule alone," Shimkus and Davis said in a released statement.
Davis released a separate statement saying that this proposal "declares a war on coal and a war on jobs in Illinois." He also said it ignores the fact that contemporary coal-fired power plants are exponentially advanced, cleaner and more efficient.
"It's very clear that once the EPA sets rules for new power plants, it will turn its attention to rules for existing power plants, which is an extremely dangerous path for America's energy future and independence," Davis said in his statement.
At Peabody Energy in St. Louis, spokesman Vic Svec said this proposal would cause consumers' power bills to skyrocket. He also said this technology is not available today.
"Peabody believes the EPA's plan is outside the realm of the law, fails to protect the American consumer, and will hurt electric reliability and America's ability to compete," Svec said in a statement.
Peabody owns a 5 percent stake in the Prairie State Energy Campus that has been operating in Washington County since 2011. Power plant spokeswoman Ashlie Keener Kuehn said although the proposed rules do not pertain to the 1,800-megwatt power plant, the EPA plans to issue proposed standards for existing power plants by June 1.
"What happened today does not affect Prairie State," Keener Kuehn said. "We're just going to have to wait and see what the rules are when they come out."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.