Next week, EPA is holding a hearing in Pittsburgh to discuss its most recent carbon regulation for existing power plants. We decided to write a post about three of the most affected places in the country—Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia—that will no doubt be well represented at the public hearing.
In Ohio, coal is the dominant source of energy in the state’s portfolio (69 percent of electricity generation in 2013). Ohio also boasts among the highest coal employment numbers in the country, with more than 20,000 Ohioans employed in the state’s mines. This doesn’t even begin to count the thousands more who work outside the mines but whose jobs are tied to the power generation industry. But EPA is causing jobs to disappear, making paying any bills, let alone higher electricity bills, extraordinarily difficult. The Buckeyes enjoy an average electricity price that is lower than both the national and regional average, largely thanks to low-cost coal-based power.
Pennsylvania’s economy is built upon the energy industry. Energy supports thousands of jobs in the state and helps keep electricity prices low by enabling Pennsylvania to use a diverse portfolio of fuel sources. Coal accounts for 40 percent of the state’s generating capacity. If they just look to their neighbors to the north and west—New York and New Jersey—Pennsylvanians can see that an energy policy relying on more expensive and volatile fuel sources will bring electricity prices that are among the highest in the entire nation.
We left the discussion of West Virginia for last because it may be the state most affected by EPA’s overreaching regulations. The state economy has suffered blow after blow from federal regulatory agencies bent on eliminating coal-based power from our energy mix. Jobs have left the state and have not been replaced. One positive element, however, is West Virginia’s low-cost electricity. This spring, electricity prices in West Virginia were 7.76 cents per kilowatt hour, which is significantly lower than both the regional and national average for electricity prices. Despite this fact, more than half the families in West Virginia spend over 20 percent of their after-tax incomes on power bills. The fact that the Mountaineers generate 95 percent of their electricity from coal and pay the lowest prices is no coincidence – it’s thanks to coal that prices are so low.
Although the current outlook is frightening, high costs can be avoided if all three states show a unified front to EPA and push back on these overreaching carbon regulations. A true “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that continues using low-cost fuel sources like coal can provide the economic and energy security our states need. We’re looking forward to next week as an opportunity to provide needed feedback that will hopefully shape the final rule.