Andrea Austria/Media Matters 

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Right-wing media attack new EPA rule aimed at cutting coal pollution

  • Right-wing media are attacking a series of new regulations the EPA issued in an effort to cut planet-warming carbon emissions and other types of toxic pollution from coal plants and some natural gas plants. 

    In response to the new rules, which the agency issued on April 25, right-wing media have misleadingly argued that one key action — forcing coal plants and new natural gas plants to cut carbon pollution by 90% in the next eight years — would inevitably cause blackouts and steep energy price increases, fueled by growing demand. 

    They also insist that the move is unconstitutional, pointing to the 2022 West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency Supreme Court decision, even though the regulations were designed with the decision in mind.

  • The EPA issued a new rule that it says would prevent over 1,000 deaths by 2035 by requiring coal plants and new natural gas plants to drastically cut carbon emissions using nascent technology or shut down

    • Coal plants that intend to remain active after 2039, and new base-load natural gas plants that are expected to run continuously, are required to cut their carbon emissions by 90% by 2032. This target is based on the capabilities of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a method of removing carbon dioxide from point sources of pollution, like power plants, and storing it underground. While some polluting industries are utilizing CCS, the technology is nascent and expensive. Coal plants that want to operate past 2039 will likely have to adopt this technology or retire. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 4/25/24, 11/23; EIA, accessed 5/3/24 ; The New York Times, 3/19/23]
    • The EPA says the new rule would have massive public health and environmental benefits. According to the EPA, “co-benefits including approximately 1,200 avoided premature deaths; 870 avoided hospital and emergency room visits; 1,900 avoided cases of asthma onset; 360,000 avoided cases of asthma symptoms.” The EPA also estimates the rule change would reduce carbon emissions by 1.38 billion tons. [, accessed 4/29/24]
  • Right-wing media and other figures claim that cutting carbon pollution from coal plants, or potentially phasing them out, would make energy more expensive and potentially cause blackouts because of a predicted surge in energy demand

    • The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that the new rule will “raise electricity prices” and might force Americans to ration energy. The editorial incorrectly claims that the rule will ban new natural gas plants and that it will “have no effect on global temperatures.” “But,” the article continues, “it will raise electricity prices no matter what EPA says. Electric rates are already soaring amid the government force-fed green transition, especially in states like California, New York and New Jersey that have done the most to punish fossil fuels.” It concluded that a second term for Biden could mean that Americans would “face energy rationing.” [The Wall Street Journal, 4/26/24]
    • On One America News, climate denier Alex Newman told host Alison Steinberg that the new rule is designed to “dismantle the U.S. economy.” When asked about the new rule, Newman said, “Under their plan, energy prices will skyrocket. What they're doing here, Alison, is actually very strategic. It has nothing to do with the climate. Forget the climate change; it’s a total hoax. What they're doing here is they're trying to dismantle the U.S. economy.” Later in the segment, Newman also said, “The Republican states are going to have to stand up and say you have no authority to declare a climate emergency. You're not shutting down anything in our state. If you send anybody into our state to shut down a power plant, to shut down an export of anything you're going to be arrested and you're gonna be prosecuted.” [One America News, In Focus, 4/28/24]
    • On Fox Business, host Jackie DeAngelis said, “This green push is going to create a situation where all our prices go up” when there is more demand for electrification and other technology. “The electricity and the energy that we need for the green cars and to power all these other green initiatives, even whether it’s in the crypto space or whether it’s other things that we are doing in the chip space in AI, this all comes from fossil fuels,” she said. “Windmills cannot give you the energy that you need to power these industries yet, so ultimately the consumer is going to suffer, businesses are going to suffer. I don't really see how this works.” [Fox Business, The Big Money Show, 4/25/24]
    • In an interview with Rich Nolan, CEO of the National Mining Association, Fox Business host Larry Kudlow falsely claimed the new rules mean there will be “no new natural gas plants” and that “there isn't going to be any electricity to power any economic growth in this country.” Nolan told Kudlow that the Biden administration had “dealt a massive blow to affordable, reliable American-mined energy in this country.” [Fox Business, Kudlow, 4/25/24]
    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt said, “If they implement this, get ready for blackout nation.” In an interview with National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson, Schmitt said, “There won't be nearly enough windmills to run this country, especially with all these new electric cars they want you to drive.” Matheson said his organization thinks the regulation is “unlawful” and called it “tone deaf” to high electricity demand. [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 4/25/24]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham said the regulations will “drive up our energy costs even further." She also said that “Biden’s climate fanatics” are “saboteurs of America’s economy, certainly of our energy security.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 4/25/24]
    • Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) wrote on X that the rule will “raise electricity costs and further decrease grid reliability” and urged followers to vote for Trump to “stop the EPA.” “Want a good reason to vote for Trump? The EPA. We desperately need new leadership to stop the EPA from attacking the things we need most, ie ENERGY,” Crenshaw wrote on X. “The EPA's latest move on power plants is harmful to Texans and Americans. … It’s going to raise electricity costs and further decrease grid reliability. … This is a terrible plan as energy demand continues to increase across the country. EPA’s dangerous actions put both grid reliability and electricity affordability at risk for millions of Americans.” [Twitter/X, 4/25/24]
    • Power the Future CEO Daniel Tuner: “Joe Biden's EPA wants to shut down every coal-fired power plant in the US.” He continued: “Here's the truth:- Coal is inexpensive, abundant, and reliable - Solar manufacturing plants run on coal - Wind manufacturing plants run on coal- EV battery factories are powered by coal Facts matter.” [Twitter/X, 4/25/24]
    • A Just The News headline claims that “experts say new EPA power plant rules will drive up energy costs and further destabilize U.S. grid,” but the main “expert” was from the Wyoming Mining Association. The executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association said that the rules were “ill-intentioned” and “legally questionable,” and he said they would have the effect of “further destabilizing America’s already rickety electricity grid by eliminating critical baseload power.” The article concluded that if the rule is not challenged in court, “Americans will likely be paying a lot more for energy in the coming years.” The article also quotes climate denier Steve Goreham and cites a few other sources but doesn’t quote them. [Just The News, 4/25/24; Inside Climate News, 8/9/16]
  • In reality, experts say the vast majority of renewable energy projects in the U.S. are now much cheaper than coal, which is on the way out anyway, and carbon-free energy can meet our grid’s growing demand

    • In most cases, renewable energy is now cheaper than coal. A 2023 report from Energy Innovation found that 99% of “coal plants were more expensive to operate compared to the alternative of building new wind or solar” nearby. [InsideClimate News, 1/30/23; Canary Media, 1/31/23]
    • In the U.S., renewables have already surpassed coal in producing power, and coal plants are quickly being decommissioned anyway. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “in 2022, generation from renewable sources—wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and geothermal—surpassed coal-fired generation in the electric power sector for the first time.” Coal power has been on the decline for years, and coal plants are now providing only about half of the energy that they were just a decade ago. [EIA, 3/27/23; InsideClimate News, 3/14/24]
    • In a recent report, think tank Energy Innovation wrote that instead of just building new gas plants, “utilities and their regulators should examine a wider portfolio of solutions that are lower risk and more compatible with utility and state climate goals and customer preferences.” According to the report, new gas plants may lose their value because of the shift toward decarbonization: “New gas plants represent large investments that utilities will be locked into for decades to come. This means that as the clean electricity transition accelerates, these plants could become stranded assets, with costs ultimately falling to electricity customers.” It listed a focus on energy efficiency, growth of cost-effective renewables and storage, and investment in transmission and other types of carbon-free energy sources as potential energy solutions. [Energy Innovation, 3/27/24]
    • The Biden administration is taking steps to speed up federal permits to expand the electric grid more quickly. In another rule announced on April 24, the Energy Department would take charge of conducting environmental reviews of some interstate power line projects to cut permitting times, so they can build transmission lines more quickly to address expected demand. [The New York Times, 4/25/24]
    • Volts podcast: Instead of offering real solutions, utilities and fossil fuel allies are using the predicted surge to push for more natural gas infrastructure and oppose regulations. In a conversation about the coming electricity demand surge with the authors of Energy Innovation’s recent report, podcast host David Roberts pointed out that “utilities should have been preparing already and it's a little rich now that they're acting like they're being caught flat-footed.” Report author Michelle Solomon said it’s “likely not a coincidence” that “many utilities have expressed that they are concerned about these rules and kind of spinning up hype right now right before the rules come out,” while the report’s other author, Eric Gimon said that in D.C., fossil fuel allies are misleadingly framing the problem and pushing the “overall narrative of ‘we can't do it,’” saying that “they crank up the volume when they need to.” [Volts, 4/24/24, 4/24/24]
  • The regulations were designed to comply with the Supreme Court’s controversial 2022 West Virginia v. EPA decision, but right-wing media figures still argue or suggest they are unconstitutional

    • In 2022, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority issued a ruling in West Virginia v. EPA that limits the EPA’s power to make power plants cut the toxic pollution that is driving the climate crisis. The Supreme Court’s ruling was centered specifically on the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act as applied to the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which was never fully implemented and is not currently under consideration by the Biden administration. [Vox, 6/30/22]
    • The EPA designed the new regulations to comply with the 2022 court decision. NPR wrote: “In 2022, the Supreme Court weighed in again and restricted the EPA's options for regulating power plant emissions. Justices said that without a specific law, the agency cannot force the entire power generation industry to move away from fossil fuels toward less-polluting energy sources. So, instead, the EPA has created regulations governing individual power plants.” [NPR, 4/25/24]
    • Former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy called on “the next U.S. president to hold agencies accountable for illegal overreach,” using the West Virginia vs. EPA decision. Outlining an argument that other right-wing media figures and lawmakers are using to claim that EPA still does not have the authority to enforce the new rules, Ramaswamy wrote, “The single most important Supreme Court ruling this century is West Virginia v EPA. ...Now, if a federal reg has a major economic or policy impact, it must be passed by *Congress*, not a 3-letter agency. Everyday citizens, businesses, and the next U.S. President can finally hold these agencies accountable for their illegal overreach.” [Twitter/X, 4/25/24]
    • Power the Future Executive Director Daniel Turner told OAN host Monica Paige that states will “push back” on the rule change using West Virginia v. EPA, saying Biden has “violated” it “before.” “EPA vs. West Virginia, which came out in 2022, was a huge ruling in favor of states rights. I'm sure they will use that as precedent, but Biden doesn't pay attention to the Supreme Court, right? He's violated West Virginia vs. EPA before. I'm hoping there are enough states attorney generals.” [One America News, OAN 8 am News with Stephanie Myers, 4/26/24]
    • Climate denier Steve Milloy called the rule “unconstitutional,” saying it violates West Virginia v. EPA[Twitter/X, 4/25/24, 4/27/24; Media Matters, 10/13/21]
    • The Daily Caller: “‘Extreme And Unlawful Overreach’: Biden Admin Unveils Final Plan To Push Climate Agenda On America’s Power Grid.” Daily Caller author Nick Pope wrote that “energy sector experts are warning that the rules could cause serious reliability issues that would harm the American economy.” The “experts'' are from fossil fuel trade associations and the Edison Electric Institute, which has helped lobbyists and fossil fuel industry executives develop controversial strategies for fighting renewable energy campaigns. Michelle Bloodworth, CEO of the coal trade association America’s Power, called the rule package “Clean Power Plan 2.0” and an “extreme and unlawful overreach that endangers America’s supply of dependable and affordable electricity.” She added that it is “the same kind of overreach that caused the U.S. Supreme Court to reject EPA’s first Clean Power Plan in 2022.” [The Daily Caller, 4/25/24]