This will not be the first time you hear me talk about coal, nor will it be the last. I have spoken in the past about what I feel are destructive regulations passed on Indiana by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); regulations that are made stricter and stricter every time we turn around. In fact, according to Indiana’s Utility Forecasting Group, regulations have already been put in place that will increase the cost of electricity in Indiana by 30 percent over the next seven years.
Often, these regulations have put limits on newly built coal plants. However recently, existing power plants have come under attack as well, putting in jeopardy years’ worth of work to serve Hoosiers. Just last month, the EPA released a new set of rules, giving Indiana just three years to come up with a plan to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent.
This comes just months after Indiana experienced one of its most severe winters in recent history, and because of these rules, American Electric Power has estimated that 90 percent of the coal-fired generation it used during this winter’s severe cold will be closed in the next year.
Pike and Warrick counties are two of the most coal dense counties in the entire state, so our district stands to be among the most impacted by these changes. While I can appreciate the EPA’s efforts for a cleaner America, I would argue that this industry has already done enough. According to the Institute for Energy Research, coal-fired electricity generation is cleaner today than ever before, and this is not simply by chance. The coal industry has spent billions on “clean-coal” initiatives that have made production not only cleaner but also more efficient. In addition, I think the EPA has overlooked another very important aspect: our local economies.
What particularly concerns me is that the closure of coal plants and a decrease in coal production will result in an increase in energy costs and essentially everything else we use, as everything is dependent on energy. The sad reality is that low-income Hoosiers will feel these impacts at a disproportionate rate. For example, a ten dollar per month increase in utility costs could be the difference between a warm home and a meal for some families. In addition, the EPA’s anti-coal initiatives will make it more difficult for Indiana to attract new business by offering low-cost electricity generated from coal.
These are just a couple examples of why we must protect this vital industry in our state. While it is easy to feel helpless in the face of federal government regulations, I want to assure you that leaders at all levels of our state government are standing up for the well-being of the coal industry, Hoosier families and our overall economic interests. Recently, Governor Pence called on members of the Indiana Congressional Delegation, your federal representatives, to support legislative efforts that would block or prevent implementation of these proposed EPA regulations for existing and new power plants.
I encourage you to contact your federal representatives and let them know how you feel about this issue. If you are unsure who your federal representative is, you can use our website to find out. By typing in your address, it will not only tell you who you should contact but also what number to call. This resource can be found at http://district.iga.in.gov/DistrictLookup/. Together, I am confident that we can make a difference.