Regulatory changes imposed by the Obama administration could force up to 207 coal-fired power plants to shut down over the next 10 years, leading to higher electric bills for Americans and potentially further weakening the power grid.
Coal supplies 40 percent of the nation’s electricity.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued regulations for new coal-fired plants and will make public next year its regulations for existing ones. But some companies already are taking action. First Energy Corp will begin the process by shutting down two plants in Pennsylvania by October 9, according to Reuters.
The regulations, which are designed to cut carbon emissions by between 20 and 30 percent, will also greatly increase the cost of electricity. FirstEnergy spokesmen told reporters that it would have cost the company $275 million to modify the plants to comply with the administration’s changes to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
Plan Already Costing Utilities Big Money
FirstEnergy will still need to spend $650 million to upgrade its other plants to comply with the new standards. Guess where that money is going to come from? Likely by raising the rates charged to home and business customers.
First Energy will face losses of around $488 million related to the closed plants. The new regulations are already taking their toll on electricity users, and the main plan hasn’t even come into effect yet.
Under the guidelines announced in June, the Environmental Protection Agency has one year to draft new limits for power plants. That means many power plants will be forced to shut down.
The Institute of Energy Research estimated that Obama’s previous regulatory regime would have eliminated 10 percent of the nation’s coal-fire electric generating capacity.
Most of the states would lose coal-fired plants under Obama’s previous plan. That, of course, means less electricity and a less reliable grid. It also means that utilities will have to switch to more expensive forms of energy, such as natural gas, to produce electricity.
All of this will lead to increased electric bills for the average ratepayer.
Under the EPA’s rules, new plants would have to capture and store any carbon dioxide that is emitted. The EPA’s critics say such technology doesn’t even exist.
Senator Says Economy Will Suffer
“This Administration is trying to hold the coal industry to impossible standards,” said US Senator Joe Manchin, D.-West Virginia. “Never before has the federal government forced an industry to do something that is technologically impossible. Forcing coal to meet nearly the same emissions standards as gas when experts know that the required technology is not operational on a commercial scale makes absolutely no sense and will have devastating impacts to the coal industry and our economy.”
The Obama administration, instead of targeting coal, should adopt an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, supporting not only coal but alternative energies, too, Joe Manchin said.
“The President’s own Department of Energy predicts that coal will continue to be a major source of electricity for at least the next 30 years. It’s just common sense to level the playing field and accept that coal is, and will be for the foreseeable future, a significant part of our energy mix.
“If these regulations go into effect, American jobs will be lost, electricity prices will soar, and economic uncertainty will grow. We need the federal government to work as a partner, not an adversary, and to invest in America’s energy future. I will continue to fight EPA overreach, just as I did as Governor, to protect the reliable, affordable energy and the good-paying jobs that coal-fired power plants provide in West Virginia and across this country.”