Monday, July 6, 2015

Morgan Griffith on Electric Power Plants

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, R-VA-9:

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Supreme Court Slaps EPA – Did They Learn Anything?

As you may recall, last week the Supreme Court found that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must consider costs of regulations of the Clean Air Act before deciding to adopt Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rules requiring power plants to cut emissions of mercury, etc.

I am of the belief this ruling stands for principles under the Clean Air Act which, if the EPA has learned anything, means the EPA at the very least ought to delay the Clean Power Plan until they are able to do an extensive cost-benefit analysis.  Perhaps such an analysis would be best conducted by an outside group not controlled by ivory-tower bureaucrats.

In her February 8, 2012 opening statement before my colleagues and I on the Energy and Power Subcommittee, then-EPA Assistant Administrator (now Administrator) Gina McCarthy testified, “The analysis projects that, as a result of MATS, plant operators will choose to retire less than one half of one percent (4.7 gigawatts (GW)) of the more than 1,000 GW that make up the nation’s electric generating capacity.”

But in February 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA, an agency that collects, analyzes, and disseminates energy information) projected 60 GW would retire by 2020, and attributed 90% of that to MATS.  Thus, EIA found that the actual effect of the MATS rule was about 54 GW retired.

As was reported last week in the inside-the-beltway news publication POLITICO, “For utility giant American Electric Power and others in the power sector, the [Supreme Court] judgment on the mercury rule that started to take effect in April comes too late to save the dozens of plants that already closed, or are slated to in the next several months.”

“‘We’re not bringing them back,’ Nick Akins, AEP’s CEO, president and chairman told POLITICO. ‘Once that ball gets rolling, it’s not going to change.’”

Sadly, AEP’s Glen Lyn plant in Giles County will remain closed.  Additionally, in part because of EPA regulations, one of the three electric generation units at Appalachian Power’s Clinch River plant in Russell County will be closed forever.  The other two units were converted to natural gas.  Because natural gas does not burn as hot as coal, those two units will produce about half the power the plant was producing before the MATS rule.

We won’t get those jobs back, nor will we have the electricity once provided by these facilities, which were important especially at peak periods.

If the EPA has not learned its lesson and goes forward with the Clean Power Plan without a proper review, they will shut down more facilities like Glen Lyn and Clinch River.

The EPA should delay its final rule until it can properly conduct or has conducted a legitimate cost-benefit analysis of the Clean Power Plan.  The Supreme Court’s ruling last week underscores this: the EPA needs to do its job, which does not include merely making regulations to eliminate coal without looking at the costs to American manufacturing jobs and American businesses and families who pay electric bills.
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Editorial comment: Agreed. "Amens" from the choir. Still, EPA or no EPA, the supply of minable coal is finite and shrinking. This web site would like to see more news of True Green alternatives being studied and implemented, preferably by groups that include a few coal miners or former miners. This web site is not talking about "fracking." This web site is talking about improvements in garbage-burning technology, and/or harnessing natural energy, including human energy. No technology will ever be perfect, but this web site would like to see Virginia take the lead in developing technology that might at least be sustainable, after the coal and the gas and the oil are gone.