WHEELING - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving to impose new greenhouse gas regulations by the end of this month that likely will make it impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant, according to published reports.
The news comes as voters across the nation head to the polls today for the 2012 general election.
The Washington Examiner and the Washington Times reported the new EPA regulations are to be in place by the end of November, and the new rules are strict enough to stop the building of any new coal-fired power plant.
In September 2011, the EPA had announced it would delay imposition of more strict greenhouse gas emissions until 2013.
Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said the news of greenhouse emissions possibly coming more quickly did take the coal industry by surprise.
"At the same time, it exemplifies the ... past behavior of this agency that knows no bounds," he said. "Their actions don't take into consideration people's livelihoods, jobs or the existing liability of energy companies.
"The (new rule) deals with the greenhouse gas emission standards. ... It will ultimately result in no new plants being constructed, and the initiative has raised questions whether existing plants have to be refitted to comply with the new regulations."
Hamilton said what makes the situation even more frustrating is that the technology and processes to control greenhouse gases as required under the new EPA rules are not yet available.
"They are requiring a controlled technology that doesn't exist," he continued. "Because of this, the new rule stifles and helps to prevent new construction of coal-fired power plants. The EPA set out on a mission several years ago to put an end to coal-fired power stations. I don't think they will deviate from that mission."
Hamilton added it was "pretty bold" of the Obama administration, on the eve of an election, to promulgate new greenhouse gas emission rules by the end of the month.
"From my perspective, it hurts his chances of re-election and appears to amplify his anti-coal bias," Hamilton said. "It's hard to believe this was calculated somehow to relate to national strategy. It's no secret, he is not doing well in major coal-producing states. Maybe they calculated this move could help them in other states."
Hamilton said the rule would hurt West Virginia's economy.
"This places another hurdle or obstacle in the West Virginia energy portfolio - there's no doubt about that," Hamilton said. "It also puts a burden on states that rely on coal-fired electricity."
Conrad Lucas, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, said defeating Obama in today's election is only one part of the equation.
"This proposed new EPA regulation would effectively end construction of any new coal plants, ever," he said. "Worse, it would ensure that prices for any kind of power would necessarily skyrocket."
Requests for comment from the Obama campaign in Ohio were referred to the White House press office, which referred the inquiry to the national Obama campaign. The Obama campaign did not immediately respond Monday.
Requests for comment from the EPA also received no response Monday.