Coal-fired power plants and the relative cheap electricity they provide soon might be endangered - but unprotected - species after a Senate vote this week.
Senate Republicans failed to get enough support on Wednesday to force a vote on a measure to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing new rules on mercury and other toxic emissions, which primarily affect coal-fired power plants.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., voted with 45 others for the measure to block the EPA rules. Sen. Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., sided with 52 colleagues to allow the EPA rule to go into effect.
Annually, coal supplies 48 percent of the electric generated in Pennsylvania and 42 percent nationally. But that number is expected to drop dramatically in the coming years, in part because of the EPA's new rules on mercury emissions.
That will mean lost jobs in the power plants and coal mines and customers likely paying higher costs for electric. Pennsylvania is the fourth largest coal producer in the nation.
The New York Times reported that more than 100 of the roughly 500 coal-burning power plants in the U.S. are likely to shut down in the coming years because of the cost of new environmental rules and lower natural gas prices.
In February, GenOn Electric Inc. announced it is shutting down eight coal-powered generating plants it owns, five of which are in Pennsylvania but not in our region, in the next few years because of the expense of meeting new environmental regulations.
The Obama administration's attitude in regard to coal power has been made clear. Now with the Senate giving the EPA the green light to impose new regulations, Americans will begin to see - and pay - the cost of such policies.