Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its proposal to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants.
The EPA this summer proposed restrictions on existing power plants intended to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. That proposal followed a similar proposal earlier this year to set tough new emissions limits for any new power plant construction.
Wyoming is the nation's leading coal-producing state. Mead, a Republican, stated in a letter this week to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the EPA proposal would cripple the demand for coal and drive up costs by requiring more electricity production from natural gas and other sources.
"Wyoming supplies 40 percent of the coal used in the United States — distributed to some 30 states annually," Mead wrote. "The mining industry employs — directly and indirectly — thousands of people in Wyoming."
Mead also asserted that the EPA lacks legal authority for the new rules. Wyoming has joined West Virginia and other states in pressing a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C., challenging the federal agency's standing to make the change.
An EPA spokesman in Denver wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday.
In announcing the proposal to reduce emissions from existing plants, McCarthy said in June that the proposal would protect public health and move the country toward a cleaner environment while fighting climate change.
"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy and our way of life," McCarthy said in June.
McCarthy said the rule reducing existing plant emissions showed EPA was delivering on a vital piece of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan. However, recent shifts in the political landscape may pose additional challenges to Obama realizing that plan.
Republicans will control both houses of Congress starting next year and many already have pledged to fight Obama on his climate change plan. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, for example, has said his top priority will be to rein in the EPA.
Mead states in his letter that the EPA has estimated that the new-plant proposal would result in shutting down 49 gigawatts of electrical generation capacity nationwide. Other recent EPA air regulations are likely to force another 70 gigawatts to shut down, he said.
"This proposal will have severe consequences. Energy prices will increase," Mead said, adding that the regulations threaten to result in the loss of one-third of the nation's fleet of coal-fired power plants by 2020.
Al Minier, chairman of the Wyoming Public Service Commission, recently wrote separate comments to McCarthy on the proposal saying that following the federal agency's plan on reducing carbon emissions in the state could require early closures of four massive coal-fired power plants years before the end of their useful service life.
Minier said shuttering the Wyoming coal plants would result in hundreds of millions of dollars of wasted investment even before weighing the cost of replacement power sources.
"After careful and, in some respects, exhaustive review of the documentation for EPA's goal, we have seen nothing that gives us confidence or even hope that goal can be met," Minier wrote.