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The EPA puts the screws to power plants

I’m sure most of you are well aware of the activist stance the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken, especially under the direction of Lisa Jackson.

Over the last two years, they have proposed some of the most controversial rules and regulations that, even by their own accounting, have the potential of costing American companies tens of billions of dollars.

Unfortunately, too often, the overwhelming number and scope of these regulations results in each individual one being forgotten. I hope to use at least some of these Regulatory Roundups to highlight some of the most harmful EPA regulations.

This week, I want to discuss two recent regulations imposed by the EPA that will have a negative impact on the American economy, job growth, and our already sky-high fuel prices. They are the Utility MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rule and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), also known as the Transport Rule, and they are expected to cost the energy industry an astounding $17.8 billion annually.

Utility MACT Rule

The Utility MACT rule is aimed at the electric utility industry and would establish new standards to limit the amount of mercury, acid gases, and non-mercury metals power plants can release into the air.

If implemented, it is anticipated to affect at least 525 coal and oil-fired power plants throughout the United States, and according to the EPA’s own numbers is expected to cost $10.9 billion per year.

This number makes it one of the most expensive regulations in the history of the EPA.

And even more shocking, that number doesn’t include any indirect costs – such as the expected price increase in consumer electricity and natural gas – associated with it. Many analyses have estimated its total cost is closer to $100 billion.

This high cost is a result of the expensive technology required to comply with the new regulation. While many power plants are beginning to slowly make these changes to their operation, the EPA’s regulation would require they come in full compliance by 2015. And the EPA imposed this extremely costly regulation without a single action by Congress.


CSAPR, finalized in July of this year, would establish emission caps for Eastern states in the United States to assist downwind states in complying with ozone standards.

More specifically, it would replace the EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and require 27 states to make dramatic cuts in power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states.

This rule is expected to impact 1,081 power plants nationwide and will have at least some impact on a majority of the 148 power plants in Georgia. According to the EPA’s own estimates, it is expected to cost $2.8 billion annually.

So, in spite of sulfur emissions being cut by 56 percent since 1980 and nitrogen oxide emissions decreasing by 77 percent since 1990, the EPA plans to move forward with CSAPR.

They have implemented an extremely short deadline for utilities to make modifications to existing equipment – giving them less than six months from the time the regulation was finalized to come into compliance.

The regulation is expected to cost as much as $100 million for a 350-megawatt power plant, and those costs would eventually be passed along to consumers.

Many power plants are in the process of discussing whether or not they will be able to afford compliance with this new regulation and it is anticipated that some will be forced to close their doors.

That jeopardizes our country’s electricity grid, which could have an impact on our national security, and costs American jobs. And once again, this extremely costly regulation was passed without the approval of Congress.


In response to the EPA’s dramatic overreach both with CSAPR and Utility MACT as well as other harmful regulations, the House of Representatives will take up H.R. 2401, the TRAIN Act (Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act).

The TRAIN Act establishes a rule that a report on the direct and indirect results of all rules and regulations issued by the EPA is required prior to implementation.

If enacted, this legislation will increase transparency within the regulation process at the EPA and will ensure that proper attention is paid to the total impact regulations may have on the energy industry and on American consumers.

It is expected to pass the House sometime this week, although Senate Democrats are expected to table it immediately rather than allow debate or a vote. I will support the legislation when it comes to the House floor.

Next week, I will address the new rule by the Department of Justice concerning deportation of illegal immigrants. Earlier this summer, the DOJ announced they would review each case to determine if an illegal immigrant should be deported – rather than deporting each illegal immigrant caught inside the United States.

[Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-3rd District) was first elected to Congress in 2004 and currently serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. His website is He lives in Grantville.]


grassroots's picture

When the former head of EMC spoke in Fayette County at a tea party meeting he warned us of the coming Cap and Trade bill. Well, here's the end run because congress won't pass it and Obama's going to keep his campaign promise of putting coal power plants out of business. He was well versed in the output of carbons by power plants and the cost that these regs would incur, coming down on the side that the negative impact it would have on jobs and economy. When I asked what was Hartfield's (ranked the busiest airport in the world) output of CO'2s compared to one power plant, he didn't know but that was an interesting question and comparison. Well,these regulations are going to come back to bite them (Feds) when when someone contests that airports such as Hartsfield puts out the equivalent of 3 coal powered plant's pollution. Is the FAA going to put up with these costly strangle holds on their sacred airports and jets? The cities and counties? I think there is a confrontation coming from all sides of this controversial liberal agenda.

At 27 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, the Robert W. Scherer Power Plant is the single largest point-source of CO2 in the U.S.. Scherer is owned and operated by Georgia Power, which also owns the Bowen Plant. Scherer burns through an average of three train-loads of coal per day – coal hauled in from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, 1,800 miles away. At any given time, BNSF has thirty-six different two-mile long coal trains somewhere on the ten-day roundtrip between Wyoming and Georgia.

Along with the Scherer Plant, which is also owned by Georgia Power, Plant Bowen is consistently one of the top three emitters of CO2 in the United States. In addition to the 24 million tons of CO2 it emits annually, Scherer is also one of the bigger sulfur dioxide sources, emitting XXX,XXX tons of SO2 annually (it should be noted that while the total amount of SO2 produced has a relatively low ratio of 18lb/MWh, as compared to Gallagher’s 40lb/MWh).

Looking at EPA numbers, Scherer output 25,000 tons of SO2 in the first 2 quarters of 2011. Those are numbers reported to the EPA. 8000 tons of NOx.

There aren't many worse, except maybe the plant in Shelby AL. But oh crap, Georgia is down wind of Shelby, AL, so all of that AL pollution is coming our way. Don't seem fair.

Scherer is #5 largest in the USA. Bowen is number 8.
So 2 of the largest coal fired plants in the country are in GA.

Shouldn't they be modern and efficient with modern industrial process controls ?

The alternative lives.


Right now in Georgia there are applications to build coal fired power plants. Coal is toxic to the environment cradle to grace. It is toxic when the dig it out of the ground. Black Lung disease. Heavy Metal Toxins. It is toxic when they ship it. The toxic heavy metal laden dust comes off the trains for hundreds of mile during shipping. Note in Georgia a dump truck on the road has a cover for the load. Not so for coal trains. It is toxic when the burn it. The smoke is toxic and spreads low level heavy metal pollution throughout the environment. That is why in Georgia all fresh water lakes and river carry health advisories from GA DNR against fish consumption. The fish concentrate toxins from the water into their bodies. Sulfur escape into the air and comes down as sulfuric acid. CO2 helps to turn the world into a slow cooker cooker oven. And what about the cost to decommission these plants when they go end of life? Who pays for that ?

The part of the justification to build the plants is that they are job creators. They cost billions of dollars to build and create jobs. Well so does retrofitting power plants with modern industrial process controls. The EPA MACT standard is "maximum achievable control technology" It is not " maximum control technology ". Meaning the the standards are achievable with current off the shelf technology. And there are firms in Georgia that specialize in this kind of industrial process controls. That mean implementation results in jobs for Georgians. And it is a double benefit because it helps to accelerate the benefits achieved since 1990. And let make no mistake about it. The coal industry fought all initiatives to make process improvements. To their own determent, because perversely, minimizing negative environmental impact from coal fire power helps to extend the life of this obsolete technology.

But coal fire power was born with the industrial revolution in the 1750s. It is obsolete. Georgia should aggressively adopt a policy to migrate to non-polluting power generation . There is no benefit to Georgia to lag in adopt of new alternatives. And regarding cleaner power generation, doesn't the power company owe it to all of us to use modern efficient processes? Why do they want to use old dirty processes ?

Sure I can go to town in a horse and buggy. It will get me there. We can all ride on coal fired steam locomotives. But there aren't any more around. Why do I want my power generation to be old and quaint ?

For the "Cost is to High argument to hold" it need to be applied to new coal fired power as well. And they need to consider the cost to the taxpayer of clean up of these old toxic waste dumps of coal ash.


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