EPA, Full Speed Ahead

by Drew Thornley

Last week, the Obama administration released its plans to increase regulation of mercury and other toxic emissions from our nation’s power plants. Like all of the EPA’s plans, the new regulations will adversely affect traditional power generators and prop up federally favored renewable energies. However, according to the EPA, we’ll all be able to breathe easier — literally — while up to 17,000 premature deaths per year will be prevented: “Reducing toxic power-plant emissions will also cut fine-particle pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of heart attacks, bronchitis cases, and asthma attacks. EPA estimates the value of the improvements to health alone total $59 billion to $140 billion in 2016. This means that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, we get $5 to $13 in health benefits.” 

About those spent dollars: “The EPA says the annual cost to meet the new regulation will be about $11 billion in 2016, and that it will increase consumers’ electric bills on the order of three or four dollars a month,” writes the Wall Street Journal. This may not be a big deal to NY Fed president William Dudley, but it’s cause for concern for the rest of us. And not surprisingly, our power suppliers have their concerns about the cost of the new rules — not to mention the pace of the EPA’s regulatory reaches in general. The WSJ reports:

American Electic Power Co. and some other utilities have expressed concern they won’t have time to bring their coal-fired plants into compliance on roughly half a dozen regulations expected to be proposed or adopted by the EPA over the next 20 months that target pollution.

That suggests they may ask Congress to intervene. “We do know many members of Congress are concerned about the economic impact of these rules, and more time will help mitigate the economic impact of making additional emission reductions,” an AEP spokeswoman said.

The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which also opposes the rules, raised another concern in a statement Wednesday: That utilities’ need to comply with these and similar rules would lead to a rush of demand for new construction and smoke-stack clean-up technology, resulting in higher costs or delays for some utilities.

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