Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the new chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, told Fox News Sunday he will challenge the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations for coal plants and other big stationary sources—“sources”, in other words, of jobs, energy and manufacturing.  Nor is he interested in a temporary, two-year time out for greenhouse gas rules; there’s no telling how long it will take to determine if the rules make sense in the first place, he said.  “We want to do this in a reasonable way,” he said.  To him, “reasonable” includes policies that encourage “clean coal” and other fossil fuels that sustain growth.

Coal state members chairing important committees don’t sound as if they anticipate a Year of the Rabbit, either.  Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and his Kentucky colleagues, Ed Whitfield and Hal Rogers, pledged to conduct their own inquisitions into regulatory obstacles to energy production and job growth.  

Over in the upper chamber, coal state Democrats were in a feisty mood, too. West Virginia’s Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller took turns warning the EPA to back off its coal permit guidance and greenhouse gas regulations. Others voiced concerns over the rain of air quality regulations that will soon fall on coal-based power plants in the Eastern U.S., threatening to drown many in higher costs.  

Note the switch from just one year ago, when regulators were accusing their predecessors of neglecting their regulatory responsibilities.  Now the new congressional leaders are accusing their predecessors of neglecting their oversight responsibilities.  As they say, elections have consequences.

In an article in The National Journal aimed at the incoming Congress, NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn, citing customers and analysts, warned that the cumulative impact of pending regulations will be “staggering.”  “We have little chance of battling unemployment or the national debt—priorities embraced by the voters and both political parties in the November elections—absent a confident and robust economy,” he said.  And coupling stimulus spending and low interest rates with punitive regulations is no way to get one.  

Typical of the regulations inspiring bi-partisan concerns was the EPA’s announcement just before Christmas to issue “performance standards” for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from coal-based power plants. The toll of regulations like this, said Quinn, will be “a loss of significant generating capacity, extensive capital costs for compliance, upward pressure on energy prices and a weakened electricity generation system.”

Small wonder both Republicans and coal state Democrats acknowledge Quinn’s point and demand accountability and regulatory relief.  They know 2011 won’t be a better economy just because it isn’t 2010 anymore.  

Popovich is a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, the industry’s trade group based in Washington, D.C.