Hoppy Kercheval, Opinion

Biden’s EPA regs threaten coal, natural gas and the power grid

The Biden administration’s EPA has released new carbon emission rules that will force the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants to close, make it more difficult for future natural gas power plants to operate and put even more of a strain on the nation’s energy grid.

The new regulation requires coal plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2039. The only way that can be achieved is by installing carbon sequestration equipment. That remains commercially unviable and a regulatory nightmare.

The EPA knows this, of course, but it allows the agency to say it is willing to allow a way forward for the coal plants, while the real goal is to rapidly finish off the domestic coal industry, even as China continues to build out its coal-fired power plants.

The regulations would exempt existing natural gas power plants, but rules will require any new plants to meet the draconian emission standards. The U.S. is sitting on top of some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world, but these regulations will have a chilling effect on future utilization to generate electricity or to build pipelines.

Call this the Clean Power Plan 2.0. The Obama administration’s EPA issued similar rules in 2015 with the same intent. However, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision in West Virginia v. EPA, determined that the agency exceeded its authority by attempting to force the country to remake its energy portfolio.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who prevailed the first time, has already said the state will challenge these regulations as well. He will be joined by other states’ attorneys general who see this as a federal government overreach.

The backdrop to this fight is the growing concern over possible electricity shortages. The demand for power is increasing rapidly due to electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and data centers. Grid operators and utility analysts are warning that electricity demand will soon outstrip supply, which means brownouts or rationing could be necessary.

Maybe the Biden administration knows all this, including the probability that the Supreme Court will strike down these rules, too. However, the regulations check a box with environmentalists who are an important constituency group Biden needs if he hopes to win reelection.

But just proposing the rules creates even more challenges for coal and natural gas operators and power generators because of the uncertainty, while simultaneously threatening the reliability of the nation’s power grids.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.