Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is one of 11 Republican governors who have signed a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to withdraw proposed rules that would reduce toxic pollutant emissions from coal-burning power plants.
In their letter Oct. 7, the governors claim long-delayed rules limiting emissions of mercury and other toxics -- originally mandated in the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 -- would cost $11 billion annually, risk millions of jobs, hurt electric power reliability and result in only marginal air quality improvements.
"Any new rule must reflect information on how it will impact the economy and include a full and complete study of reliability that takes into account the additional regulatory hurdles EPA is considering placing before the power sector," the governors wrote.
But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is under a Nov. 16 court-ordered deadline to enact the new air toxics rules, said the standard would reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, other heavy metals and acid gases by 91 percent and, by 2016, save 17,000 lives a year while reducing asthma, respiratory ailments, birth defects and cancers.
The rule will also prompt installation of pollution controls and construction of new power plants that will support 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs, the EPA said.
Ernesta Jones, an EPA spokeswoman, said the nation can ill afford not to put the new rules in place. For every $1 spent on pollution controls, the public will receive the equivalent of $5 to $13 in health benefits, she said.
The Republican governors sent their letter to the president as 25 states and the Utility Air Regulatory Group, an industry lobbying group, were preparing a legal challenge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week to the EPA's rule-making deadline. They seek a one-year delay in finalizing the new rule.
Pennsylvania is not part of that court appeal.
Jan Jarrett, president and chief executive officer for Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, said the Corbett administration has a growing track record of moving away from air pollution regulations that would protect human health.
"But this letter tears off Gov. Corbett's mask of concern and makes it clear he is willing to throw out Pennsylvania jobs and sacrifice our families to deadly air pollution just to satisfy the coal and oil industry's anti-regulation dogma," Ms. Jarrett said.
State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, in a written response to questions Tuesday, said that any assertion that the governor, who is from Southwestern Pennsylvania, "does not care about his neighbors' health and his own is ridiculous."
Don Hopey: email@example.com or 412-263-1983.