EPA plans wave of coal plant shutdowns lawmakers say will send energy costs soaring

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to shut down a number of coal-fired power plants in a controversial bid to curb pollution in the U.S.

The shutdowns are part of a new effort to regulate Mercury, smog, ozone, greenhouse gases, coal ash and water intake over the next 18 months.

However, rising tensions are resulting between environmental, industry groups and Republican members of the House, who say the regulations will result in higher electric bills, more blackouts and fewer jobs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to shut down a number of coal-fired power plants in a controversial bid to curb pollution in the U.S.

The shutdowns are part of a new effort to regulate Mercury, smog, ozone, greenhouse gases, coal ash and water intake over the next 18 months.

However, rising tensions are resulting between environmental, industry groups and Republican members of the House, who say the regulations will result in higher electric bills, more blackouts and fewer jobs.

Meanwhile, environmental groups argue substantial public health benefits and have accused utilities of exaggerating the cost of such regulation.

A newly-released report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), which conducts policy research for members of Congress, acknowledged EPA regulations will predictably force many coal plants to close through the year 2017.

However, it noted ‘In most cases… the benefits (of new regulations) are larger.’

The EPA estimates that an air-transport rule to regulate smog-causing sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide would help prevent 21,000 cases of bronchitis and 23,000 heart attacks, and save 36,000 lives.

That could result in $290billion in health benefits, compared with $2.8billion per year in costs by 2014, according to the EPA.

The country’s oldest plants are expected to be the first casualties. According to the report, one-third of all coal capacity became active between 1940 and 1969 and about two-thirds of them do not have scrubbers.

The CRS report states: ‘Many of these plants are inefficient and are being replaced by more efficient combined cycle natural gas plants, a development likely to be encouraged if the price of competing fuel – natural gas – continues to be low, almost regardless of EPA rules.’

The CRS staved off arguments coal plant closures would result in a catastrophic affect on the U.S. power grid. According to the report,coal plants that came online before 1970 are in use, on average, only 41 per cent of the time. Electric plants have the added ability of increasing power relatively quickly.

‘There is a substantial amount of excess generation capacity at present,’ it reads, noting the affect of the recession and the growing use of natural gas plants.

The CRS does not directly comment on costs of EPA regulations for consumers, although it notes costs will vary by utility and state.

Original Article

Posted on August 21, 2011, in Tax Payer's Dime and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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