Today the EPA is expected to reach a final decision on the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), which will, for the first time, limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants across the United States. However in the lead up to the decision the coal industry has subtly pitted itself against the natural gas industry in a fight for the right to rule the TV airwaves and influence the public to claim sides on the decision.
In cities across the country the coal industry has been airing advertisements that explain how the new rules will cause thousands of energy sector layoffs and increased power costs while the natural gas industry under the guise of the American Lung Association has been airing ads in favor of the new regulations — they believe that hampering coal will give a boost to gas (watch one of their ads above to see the message they’re sending). While the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — contradictions, anyone? — has come right out and said that they sponsor the ads, the Chesapeake Energy Corporation which deals with oil and natural gas drilling and is a huge coal competitor, allegedly gave the American Lung Association millions to underwrite their ad campaign in favor of the EPA regulations.
The EPA’s new regulations are expected to mandate that coal-fired power plants install technology to reduce their mercury, arsenic and acid gases. It has been estimated that the measures taken will save 7,000 premature deaths from toxic emissions and add an additional 9,000 jobs to the energy sector by growing the market — and job opportunities — for clean air technology. In the aftermath of the decision the EPA estimates billions will be spent to retrofit power plants across the country and the air around those plants will improve.
The ads underwritten by Chesapeake in favor of the new regulations use kids as a heart wrenching example of why the Clean Air Mercury Act will improve lives. “Air pollution from other states is hurting our kids, especially those with asthma, and corporate polluters are trying to block EPA scientists from cleaning it up,” the narrator says. While the coal industry is targeting people’s wallets, the narrator in the ad against the regulations tells the viewer, “today, too many Americans are just trying to hang on to their jobs. So why is the EPA in a rush to push regulations that would saddle Americans with higher energy costs and throw even more of us out of work? The EPA needs to slow down. Tell Congress to make sure they do.”
Though we’re definitely not in favor of the natural gas or oil industries — with their monumentally dangerous hydraulic fracturing and deep water drilling practices — we’re with them in this fight. The new EPA regulations will help the American economy while diminishing the environmental consequences and health effects of dirty coal.