WASHINGTON – Few commodities are as essential to railroads and railroad jobs as coal. Fully 25 percent of railroad revenue, one-in-five railroad jobs and 40 percent of freight cars owe their existence to coal, according to the Association of American Railroads.
But a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week could put a crimp in coal’s future – imposing the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and encouraging the substitution of natural-gas fired energy plants to generate electricity.
The EPA is accepting comments on its proposal prior to finalizing the rule. If the EPA does not back down, coal interests are expected to mount a federal-court challenge to the rule, according to news reports.
The senior Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, said the ruling “could have a crippling effect” on U.S. coal production, effectively prohibiting the construction of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and causing many of the existing coal-fired power plants to be phased out.
The EPA said its ruling is “a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy.”
But the Edison Electric Institute, which represents electric utilities, said that the EPA proposal “threatens the viability of coal.” News reports quote experts that the EPA ruling, if it stands, could eliminate 15 percent of U.S. coal-fired plants.
China, meanwhile, uses more coal than the United States, Europe and Japan combined, according to The New York Times.
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