(Casper Star Tribune, July 25) – Each year, Wyoming’s coal industry delivers more than $1.1 billion into the state’s coffers. That critical funding helps pay for everything from roads to schools. But the state’s economic health could be in peril if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gets its way.
The EPA, under the guise of cleaner air, has proposed a sweeping carbon reduction mandate, called the Clean Power Plan, that if approved would sap needed revenue out of the state, drive up electricity prices and raise the cost of living. The plan aims to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s electricity sector 30 percent by 2030.
Under the EPA’s mandate, Wyoming’s electricity rates — some of the most affordable in the country — could jump 28 percent. And since the CPP targets coal consumption across the country, reduced mining in the state could mean lost jobs and lost tax revenue. The impact could be similar to the darkest days of the Great Recession, when businesses across the state closed and the unemployment rate doubled.
Sometimes economic trouble and jumps in energy prices come from factors beyond our control — think of a rise in the price of gasoline because of turmoil in the Middle East — but the economic harm caused by the CPP will be self-inflicted. As we all know too well, bad policy decisions made by bureaucrats in Washington can have painful real-world impacts.
Tax revenue and mining jobs aside, a jump in electricity prices — especially of the magnitude expected — could be devastating. While no one wants to see a higher energy bill, it’s low-income folks, including so many seniors on fixed incomes, who suffer the most.
A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in seven seniors is now living in poverty. For the 70,000 folks in Wyoming over the age of 60, many of whom rely on Social Security to get by, higher costs for necessities like electricity could mean choosing between paying the electric bill and buying needed medications.
As a representative for 7.2 million seniors nationwide — including more than 15,000 in Wyoming — I hear firsthand their struggles. For the sake of seniors, and every American, we should be working on ways to reduce the cost of living, not artificially raise it. While building a more efficient and cleaner energy mix is a laudable goal, federal energy regulation, never voted on by our elected officials in Congress, is the wrong approach.
Fortunately, the CPP — perhaps better called the costly power plan -– remains under review. Speak up while you can and tell Gov. Matt Mead to join other like-minded governors across the country to simply say no to the EPA’s directive. Elected officials from 32 states have expressed serious concerns about the costs of the CPP and how it might affect reliability of our electric grid. This sweeping, costly energy mandate is a mistake Wyoming can’t afford.
Jim Martin is chairman and founder of the 60 Plus Association.