The following column by NFIB/Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash was originally posted on AL.com on Aug. 6, 2015:
What would you think if I told you Washington was going take another $1,700 a year out of your family’s checking account? How would that affect your family? How much would it hurt?
This isn’t a theoretical exercise. It’s what’s going to happen in a few years if the Obama administration’s new rules governing the nation’s power plants are allowed to take effect.
In short, this latest battle in the war on coal calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to create tough new standards on carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, although states will be given a chance to come up with their own standards.
Put simply, the rules amount to a massive tax on the price of electricity.
Of course, it isn’t just families that would feel the pinch. Small businesses, the engine that drives our economy, would have to spend more on energy, and that, in turn, would push up prices on absolutely everything.
The EIA estimates that the financial pressure on businesses would be so great that many of them would have to eliminate jobs so they could afford to keep the doors open. The agency estimates that job losses could amount to nearly half a million a year by the late 2020s.
It’s unknown how many of these job losses could come from small businesses, because the EPA didn’t even actually consider how the rules would affect small employers. Instead, they considered the direct effects on small power generation facilities. My association, the National Federation of Independent Business, filed comments with the EPA pointing out this oversight. Our comments were ignored.
While our state only gets about 31 percent of its power from coal-fired power plants the rules drives up costs for any fossil fuel plant including natural gas and petroleum. Plus the cost of goods will rise across the country. A business operating in our state may have suppliers in the harder hit areas of the country.
State legislators are being driven by the administration to cooperate by creating plans that meet the federal government’s harsh standards. It’s an almost impossible choice they face: go along, or leave the tough decisions to Washington regulators. Without a doubt, many states will see no other alternative but to sue the federal government for this regulatory overreach.
Congress shouldn’t take this lying down. Already, the House has passed legislation that would let states opt out of the rule if they find that electric rates will rise sharply. There is companion legislation introduced in the Senate, but it hasn’t gotten a vote yet.
If this rule goes into effect, it will be painful for small businesses and for family budgets. At a time when the nation is struggling to come out of the recession, the EPA’s actions threaten to create another economic crisis.