Spotlight on States: Coal Fuels Colorado

Posted by Julia Treanor at 4:31 pm, February 26, 2015

Stakeholders gathered yesterday in Denver, Colorado to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan at the first of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s three regional conferences. At the event, FERC heard from regulators and industry experts about the impact EPA’s CPP will have on electric reliability and our broader energy infrastructure.

It’s no surprise FERC selected Denver for its first conference location. The state of Colorado is rich in energy resources and is particularly abundant in coal, which provides 64 percent of Colorado’s electricity. Beyond producing nearly two-thirds of the state’s power, the coal industry contributes greatly to local economies.

coal jobs

Direct and indirect employment generated by coal mining in Colorado accounts for more than 21,000 jobs. According to Gary Horvath, the chief economist of a recent study about coal’s impact on the Northwest region of the state, these jobs are significant because they are “primary jobs,” where at least half of the industry’s production is sold outside of the community. This allows greater wealth to be absorbed by Colorado coal communities, in part through higher than average wages which boost local businesses and economies.

By providing high-paying employment opportunities to thousands of families in Colorado, coal is powering better lives throughout the Centennial state. To stay updated on how coal fuels states across America, visit www.AmericasPower.org/Get-Involved.


Model After Model Affirms: The Clean Power Plan Will Raise Electricity Rates

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 9:00 am, February 25, 2015

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is on Capitol Hill today to testify about her agency’s fiscal 2016 budget. We expect to hear a lot of back-patting and puffery, for the year ahead is a self-appointed important one at EPA headquarters. The agency will be tasked with carrying out President Obama’s climate change legacy, including the most far-reaching (and costliest) regulation on America’s power sector to date: the Clean Power Plan.

As Administrator McCarthy extolls the virtues of EPA, its mission and its work, she will surely advocate for the agency to receive every dollar requested in the budget draft. What she’ll likely leave out is any reference to the budgets that matter most: those of American families.

Time and time again, EPA has failed to be transparent about the real impact its plan will have on household budgets across the country. EPA claims the CPP will result in a 4.1 to 4.4 percent increase in the cost of electricity. A number of economic impact models, however, of the proposal tell a very different story.

REVISED_ACCCE Infographic_Lamp_EPA_Numbers-v10

While each of the models employ a different approach, the conclusions are the same: EPA vastly underestimated just how much electricity rates will rise under its plan.


Will EPA Ignore FERC Again?

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 10:37 am, February 19, 2015

Independent grid operators, elected officials and public utility commissioners have all raised concerns about the potential for power outages if states are forced to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s costly and overreaching Clean Power Plan.

Thus far, and not surprisingly, EPA has turned a deaf ear. They do, after all, have a habit of listening only to those whose opinions with which they are comfortable.

GinaShareGraphic

At the request of congressional leaders, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—the agency charged with protecting the reliability of our nation’s energy generation and supply system—will host a series of technical conferences weighing the impact of compliance with EPA’s proposal on the electric grid. The conferences kick off today in Washington, D.C.

You would think, as EPA’s Clean Power Plan is more akin to a national energy policy (the job of Congress) than it is to a plan to protect public health (EPA’s actual job), that FERC would be heavily involved with the planning and crafting of the proposal. Not so, according to FERC Commissioner Tony Clark. In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Clark wrote, “With regard to FERC staff generally, I believe it unreasonable to conclude that FERC meaningfully or substantially participated in the [Clean Power] plan’s development.” 

EPA has shown little regard for reliability concerns in the past and likely fears that FERC’s direct involvement may interfere with the agency’s knack for employing fuzzy math to underestimate the impacts of its regulations.

While finalizing the Mercury Air and Toxic Standards, EPA claimed that MATS (along with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which was later remanded back to EPA) would cause 9,500 megawatts of coal unit retirements. In contrast, utilities have announced the retirement of 389 coal units—more than 61,000 MW and almost 20 percent of the U.S. coal fleet—as a result of EPA policies. 50,000 MW can be directly attributed to MATS.  You read that right. EPA’s projection for coal retirements due to MATS/CSAPR was only 1/5th the number of actual retirements caused by MATS.

During last year’s “polar vortex,” major utility companies like American Electric Power had to run 89 percent of its soon-to-be-retired coal capacity just to meet demand and avoid cascading power outages. Shortly thereafter, FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller issued a wake-up call before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, stating, “I was, and remain concerned that EPA’s analysis greatly underestimated the amount of power production that would be retired due to these rules.” Moeller continued, “The experience of this winter strongly suggests that parts of the nation’s bulk power system are in a more precarious situation than I had feared in the past.”

According to EPA’s own projections, the Clean Power Plan will cause significantly more coal retirements than what the agency projected for MATS. An analysis conducted by NERA Economic Consulting projected that at least 45,000 MW more would be forced to retire. That is greater than the entire electricity supply of New England.

It’s no wonder that in Kansas last week, FERC Commissioner Clark, a former legislator and utility regulator in North Dakota, said complying with EPA’s mandate is a “huge decision to make,” and “a little bit like the Affordable Care Act…play ball, and potentially get caught up in it in a way that you may regret later on.”

We’ve already seen the impact of EPA’s regulations on our supply of reliable electricity. Will EPA listen to the experts this time around?

 


Spotlight on States: Coal Fuels Wisconsin

Posted by Julia Treanor at 2:41 pm, February 18, 2015

When it comes to the future of America’s manufacturing industry, the importance of an affordable, reliable energy supply cannot be overstated. Low-cost and predictable electricity rates help manufacturers maintain existing jobs, create new ones and ultimately remain competitive in a global economy.

This is especially true in Wisconsin, where the manufacturing sector makes up 16.3 percent of the state’s workforce. In fact, Wisconsin is second in the nation in manufacturing jobs, ranking only behind Indiana. To power their factories and machinery, manufacturers use nearly one-third of Wisconsin’s electricity, which is made significantly more affordable through the use of coal. With such a vibrant industrial economy in place, it’s no surprise Wisconsin receives 62 percent of its electricity from coal.

Don Wisconsin SYS Macro

Because of its dependence on coal-based electricity, the manufacturing industry in Wisconsin would be significantly affected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations. Under the plan, the state could see electricity rate increases of 17 percent. Wisconsin manufacturers and businesses will be forced to bear these additional costs, which would have a lasting impact on wages and employment. According to a recent study, EPA regulations would eliminate more than 20,000 manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin by the year 2023.

Recognizing the long-term negative effects on Wisconsin’s energy and economic future, state officials are speaking out against EPA. In addition to signing a letter of opposition to the agency, Governor Scott Walker recently announced he and Attorney General Brad Schimel are preparing a lawsuit to challenge the regulations. And in his State of the State address, Governor Walker called on the federal government to work with states like Wisconsin to find reasonable energy policies that are “both environmentally and economically sustainable.”

We couldn’t agree more.

 


Regulators, Legislators and Energy Industry Experts Agree: EPA’s Carbon Plan is Unworkable

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 8:42 am, February 16, 2015

Public service and utility commissioners from across the country are in Washington, D.C. this week to attend the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners Winter Meeting. Without question, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will be a central topic of discussion as its chief proponent, Administrator McCarthy, will be on hand to tout her usual misleading claims.

Ms. McCarthy’s audience at NARUC, however, may not be inclined to swallow her claims of lower energy bills and a stable grid, hook, line and sinker as her Clean Power Plan is being met with growing concern and criticism. Legislators, regulators and energy industry leaders alike are pointing out major flaws in EPA’s proposal. Today, we’re taking a look at what experts are saying about three core tenets of the CPP: reliability impacts, cost increases and unrealistic assumptions.

Regardless of what Ms. McCarthy may say, here are two facts she can’t escape:

  1. EPA’s plan jeopardizes the reliability of our electric grid.
  1. EPA failed to consult the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal regulatory body in charge of monitoring America’s electric grid.

Don’t take my word for it though – let’s hear directly from the experts:

“SPP’s transmission system impact evaluation indicates serious, detrimental impacts on the reliable operation of the bulk electric system in the SPP region, introducing the very real possibility of rolling blackouts or cascading outages that will have significant impacts on human health, public safety and economic activity within the region.” – Southwest Power Pool

“The weather events experienced this [2014] winter provided an early warning about serious issues with electric supply and reliability. This country did not just dodge a bullet – we dodged a cannonball.” – Nick Akins, AEP

“I believe it unreasonable to conclude that FERC meaningfully or substantially participated in the [Clean Power Plan’s] development.” – Tony Clark, FERC Commissioner

Here’s another inescapable fact: The CPP will result in significant electricity price increases across the board.

“We must realize that utility rates are not within the jurisdiction of EPA.” – Lisa Edgar, NARUC President and Florida Public Service Commissioner

“Plant retirements are higher than projected. Electricity prices are rising. Even factors beyond our control – such as last winter’s [2014] weather – are on a collision course with the shutdowns caused in part by new federal regulations.” – Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

And, yet another: EPA has created a flawed and unworkable rule based on unrealistic assumptions.

EPA has set mandatory emissions reductions “with no analysis by EPA as to whether that actually makes sense or is economically reasonable for each state.” – Robert J. Martineau, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner

“NCDENR believes EPA’s proposed rule … is legally and technically flawed… In defining a specific rate for each state and then mandating each state meet that predetermined rate, EPA runs counter to the U.S. Constitution.” – John E. Skvarla, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary

“The proposal assumes that Arizona can completely be off coal in 2020. The fact is that it gets hot in Arizona and there are periods in the summer in which we are utilizing every possible source of electricity, from natural gas to nuclear and coal.” – Henry Darwin, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director

To learn more about the impacts of EPA’s regulations, visit KeepAmericasPowerOn.org today and get the facts.

 


Guest Blog: Kelley Earnhardt Miller on the Importance of Reliable Electricity

Posted by Kelley Earnhardt Miller at 9:13 am, February 12, 2015

I’m Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and I co-own JR Motorsports along with my brother Dale Jr. JR Motorsports has partnered with America’s Power for the last three seasons, and we’re looking forward to another great year on and off the track in 2015.

This year, I’m excited to pen a new monthly series for the Behind the Plug blog, where I’ll explore how the important mission of America’s Power—protecting affordable, reliable and increasingly clean electricity from coal—impacts my everyday life as a business owner, mom and member of my community.

Through JR Motorsports’ partnership with America’s Power, I’ve had the opportunity to learn how electricity is generated and the vital role coal plays in the process. Right here in North Carolina, the home of JR Motorsports’ headquarters, coal is responsible for providing nearly 40 percent of our low-cost, reliable electricity.

When temperatures drop as they have across the country this winter, Americans are relieved to know that when they flip a switch, the lights will come on. But behind the electricity that powers homes and businesses are the energy workers who ensure that our power stays on when we need it most. As Dale Jr. says in this month’s featured video, these hard-working men and women “keep the lights on and the cold at bay.”

The 2015 NASCAR season opener is just a few days away, and on behalf of JR Motorsports, I can’t wait to begin another season with America’s Power. Thanks for reading, and check back next month for my new post on Behind the Plug.

 


Lights Out: New Video Shows How EPA Will Leave American Families in the Dark

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 1:28 pm, February 10, 2015

America’s Power released a new video today highlighting the serious threat the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations pose to our electric reliability. The video follows a family’s journey through a winter storm to learn why power outages have occurred at a time when reliable electricity is needed the most. What they discover is that coal-based power plants, which provide our base-load electricity and keep our homes and businesses powered during winter storms and throughout the year, have been forced offline due to EPA’s misguided and politicized energy policies.

The latest addition to our #ColdInTheDark campaign, this video drives home a crucial point – EPA’s overreaching and dangerous regulations will indeed turn the lights off on American families if left unchallenged.

EPA is clearly living in a fantasy world where they believe intermittent energy sources can make up for the nearly 49,000 MW of generating capacity from coal plants set to be shut down by the end of this year. Even though EPA prefers to dwell in dreamland, we hope our video wakes Americans up to the harsh reality these regulations will impose.

What can you do to help prevent Americans from going without power when they need it most? Sign up for the America’s Power Army, and learn more at KeepAmericasPowerOn.org.

 


Spotlight on States: Coal Fuels Nebraska

Posted by Julia Treanor at 3:35 pm, February 03, 2015

Last November, America’s Power launched a state-focused blog series to explore the critical role coal-based electricity plays in communities across America. We continue the series today by spotlighting Nebraska, a state that receives 72 percent of its electricity from coal.

From a small specialty food store to the state’s largest manufacturer, businesses of all sizes depend on low electricity rates from coal to keep energy costs low. Coal is also the most transported commodity in Nebraska, supporting thousands of freight rail jobs throughout the state. In fact, Union Pacific Railroad has called Omaha home since 1862, and its main line through central Nebraska is America’s busiest rail freight corridor.

AmericasPower_SYS_Train

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations take direct aim at these industries, jobs and Nebraska’s broader use of coal-fired electricity. As Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer noted last year, “EPA’s anti-coal agenda will cost Nebraskans valuable jobs, increase electricity prices for middle class families, and jeopardize access to affordable, reliable energy.” According to recent analysis, the Cornhusker state could face peak year electricity rate increases of 19 percent under EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Nebraska’s state officials have been vocal opponents of the agency’s regulatory overreach: in 2013, the state’s Attorney General signed a white paper opposing EPA’s approach, and last year, Nebraska joined 12 other states in litigation challenging EPA’s proposal. Opposition to the agency’s carbon plan continues to grow, and recently sworn-in Governor Pete Ricketts vowed to “stand up to excessive regulation forced on [Nebraska] by Washington.”

Learn how you can help protect affordable electricity in Nebraska and in your state: sign up for America’s Power Army to receive alerts on activities and events throughout the year.