Proposed EPA rule could affect Alabama coal industry, power rates

Within the next 15 years, President Barack Obama wants to cut carbon emissions nationally by 30 percent.The Alabama Public Service Commission calls the president's clean power plan a war on coal. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees. It says the plan would quash the development of more than 220,000 jobs per year.Environmental groups, on the other hand, love the proposed rule. They say it will clean the air and cut healthcare costs. "I'm third generation coal miner so coal mining's been in my blood, my families blood," said John Box.16,000 Alabamians count on coal for their jobs.Many are worried about saving those jobs."We buy our clothes, our food, our gas, every product that we have in the house by way of earning money through coal mining," added Box.The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan would cut carbon emmissions from existing power plants in Alabama by almost 30 percent by 2030."We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama," said Alabama Public Service Commission President, Twinkle Cavanaugh. "I told you that I would fight for affordable electricity and I would fight for reliable electricity."Cavanaugh and the two other PSC commissioners held a news conference earlier this week. Their message: If the regulation passes, electricity prices would sky-rocket and jobs will be lost."Families in Alabama are strapped," said Cavanaugh. "Right now, we are strapped. The economy has been tough. And I believe Washington should not put more mandates, more burdens, and more regulations on families in Alabama.""Our natural resources are very special to me, as they are all of us," said Public Service Commissioner-Elect Chip Beeker. "They're God given. Who has the right to take what God's given to a state and say that we will usurp your authority."Environmentalists like Stacie Propst with Gasp, Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, believe the regulation is much needed."SSpecifically it's going to improve our health for the main reason that we have some of the largest carbon emissions in the nation, especially in Birmingham," said Propst. "Birmingham is one of the dirtiest air cities in the country."Propst believes reducing carbon emissions will make Alabamians healthier."The cost projections are that for every one dollar spent on pollution control, in this case carbon emissions,{} we will{} save seven dollars in public health benefits and that includes healthcare for diseases like, disease and death for heart disease, lung diseases, a wide array of illnesses that kill and disable us on a regular basis," said Propst.She admits it may cost jobs, but argues that's the nature of the free market."I understand wanting to help the environment to make things better," said Box. "We all strive for that, even here every day we look for better things to do to help the environment. The regulations I view as being extreme."Representatives at Alabama Power say they are still crunching their own numbers about how the rule could affect rates. But, they say if they have to pay for increased regulations, costs will likely be passed down to customers.The EPA says based on input, it will finalize standards next June.
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