New EPA Rules Threaten Montana’s Economic Future

New EPA Rules Threaten Montana’s Economic Future

"Our leaders should be cutting red tape to make it easier to build vital projects and generate more power, not less."

Over the last four years, D.C. bureaucrats have opened the floodgates on new regulations, implementing 950 final rules that impose a whopping $1.64 trillion in new compliance costs on businesses that will be passed on to American consumers, nearly 7 times more than the new regulatory costs imposed at this point in the last presidential administration.

The latest example of costly federal rulemaking comes from the EPA, which issued a suite of new regulations targeting some of America’s most reliable sources of energy: coal and natural gas. Not only are these new rules immediately costly, but they disproportionately impact Montana, potentially pushing our state’s stressed electric grid to a breaking point and threatening the economic future of every Montanan.

In addition to changes regarding mercury and coal ash standards, the EPA’s new Carbon Rule would require coal plants operating through or beyond 2039 to reduce their emissions by 90% by 2032. Additionally, new natural gas plants that generate electricity at a rate of at least 40% of their maximum annual capacity would also have to reduce their emissions by 90% by 2032.

Proponents of the new rules claim that power plants would simply upgrade their technology to comply with the rules, but it’s not that simple. The truth is that after factoring in the costs of compliance, the new rules effectively mean that most of America’s coal power plants will be forced to shut down within fifteen years, if not much sooner.

For Montana, these new federal rules are disastrous. Montana’s electric grid is already unstable, ranked 35th in reliability by U.S. News & World Report. Grid instability and electricity costs are impacting the state’s economy, with large employers like REC Silicon in Butte shutting down manufacturing due to “regional structural imbalance in supply and demand for electricity.”

Like it or not, Montana currently relies on the consistent, reliable power generation available from sources like coal to maintain power when there is high demand. Accelerating additional retirements of these reliable energy sources with draconian new federal regulations could put our state’s electric grid into a tailspin and damage even more Montana businesses.

To make matters worse, these federal rules come at the worst possible time for Montana’s economy. Across the nation, power suppliers are increasing demand forecasts due to the growing electrification of the economy and higher demand for energy in cutting-edge industries. The tremendous growth of AI and other datacenter use which powers the internet requires a massive amount of electricity. America also has prioritized domestic production of critical minerals and semiconductor manufacturing for our national security, both of which are incredibly energy intensive and rely heavily on reliable, always-available power.

Thanks to our abundant natural resources and business-friendly regulatory environment, Montana is well positioned to become an international hub for these dynamic, high-growth industry sectors. If Montana can attract businesses at the forefront of growth in the future economy, we’ll reap the benefits of increased productivity, wage growth, and overall prosperity. A lack of always-on power could squander this potential.

Rather than imposing harmful new regulations that undermine our energy grid reliability and jeopardize our children’s chances of a more prosperous future, our leaders should be cutting red tape to make it easier to build vital projects and generate more power, not less.

It is not hyperbole to say that Montana’s past, present, and future require abundant energy – and the EPA’s new Carbon Rule move us towards energy scarcity.

This column originally appeared in Lee Newspapers.

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