Coal industry dealt another blow by the Supreme Court

The coal industry was dealt another blow today as the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that the EPA could regulate and limit power plant emissions that blow across state lines. The 2011 EPA rule, called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule requires 28 states to reduce power plant emissions that wind up impacting the air quality of downwind states. 1,000 power plants in the eastern part of the U.S. stand to be affected.
Polluting states like Texas and Michigan had opposed the rule, as had coal fired power plant owners like Southern Co. and Xcel Energy. The Obama administration has been actively regulating coal power plants and many conservatives have dubbed the administration’s strategy a “war on coal.”
The Cross-State Air Pollution rule is just one area where the administration is invoking executive power to fight greenhouse gas emissions. Obama’s proposed emissions limits on new power plants have come in at 1100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, which given the reality that coal emits 1800 pounds per megawatt-hour, is just one sign of how coal’s phaseout will accelerate. The only solution, carbon sequestration, remains expensive and still in pre-commercial stages. There are also rumblings that the EPA could enforce these same limits on existing coal power plants, which would be a major headache for coal utilities. And with the reality of cheap natural gas and cheaper renewable energy, the coal industry is looking very challenged right now.