Energy Week Ahead: Republicans Campaign Against ‘War on Coal’

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- House Republicans are set to play a familiar theme this week before heading out to campaign for the November election, trying to head off rules from the Environmental Protection Agency to curb pollution.

In a string of votes starting last year, the House voted to stop pollution standards on industrial boilers, on mercury coming from power plants and on farm dust -- a regulation the EPA did not even issue.

This week, members are scheduled to vote on a bill to stop what Republicans label as President Barack Obama’s “War on Coal.” The measure would prevent rules on greenhouse gases from power plants, stop EPA officials from yanking already-issued permits for coal mines, and mandate that ash waste from coal-fired plants be regulated by states, not the federal government.

“The only way to prevent even more victims from this war on coal is for Congress to step up and pass legislation to stop EPA from abusing the Clean Air Act,” Michigan Republican Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said last week in a statement. An energy subcommittee on Thursday is also set to examine related legislation that would prevent the EPA from finalizing a proposal to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from new power plants.

Still, the Senate hasn’t approved any of the previous anti-EPA measures, and the bill coming up this week is also destined to go nowhere -- at least in this Congress.

That doesn’t mean the measure doesn’t have a purpose.

In industrial battleground states such as Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the coal industry and related outside groups have been running advertisements and events blasting Obama’s energy policies. Coal is forecast by the Energy Information Administration to account for less than 38 percent of U.S. electricity generation this year, down from almost 50 percent five years ago, primarily because natural gas has emerged as a cheaper alternative.

Television advertisements boosting fossil fuels such as coal topped $153 million so far this year, according to an analysis by the New York Times.

“If you don’t believe in coal, if you don’t believe in energy independence for America, then say it,” Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney said of Obama in an Aug. 14 speech in Ohio.

If Romney wins the presidency and Republicans pick up enough seats in the Senate to take the majority, these so-called “message bills” could be reconstituted as legislation.

“This is an indication of what the House majority would do” if Republicans also controlled the Senate and White House, Scott Slesinger, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund in Washington, said in an interview.


NUKE SAFETY: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Kristine Svinicki will be discussing safety issues Tuesday during a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Nuclear Energy Institute CEO Marvin Fertel is also scheduled to speak.

CYBERSECURITY: Miles Keogh, director of grants and research at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, will discuss how electricity generators and distributors can best protect their networks from cyberattacks, Tuesday at NDN, a think tank in Washington that supports clean energy, among other issues.