Coal coal pollution regulations utility company ceo

Published on December 15th, 2011 | by Guest Contributor


Utility Company CEOs Say Coal Regulations Good for U.S.

December 15th, 2011 by  

coal pollution regulations utility company ceo

For all those who have been or might be confused by nonsense pushed by fossil fuel industry reps, politicians, and a handful of utility companies regarding EPA regulations of coal power plants, here’s a great post by Daniel Weiss, Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress, which includes a couple extended quotes by utility company CEOs. (This post originally appeared on Climate Progress.)

By Daniel J. Weiss

There are reports that on December 19th the Environmental Protection Agency will promulgate the long awaited standards to require coal fired power plants to reduce their mercury, arsenic, lead, and other toxic pollution.  The dirtiest utilities and big coal companies have launched an eleventh hour pressure campaign to convince President Obama to delay or weaken the implementation of these safeguards that would prevent 1,400 premature deaths per month.

One of the major false claims about these vital health protections is that they would make our electricity system less reliable.   On December 10th, two major utilities rebutted these claims in letters published in the Wall St. Journal in response to its misleading editorial.   Ralph Izzo, Chairman, CEO, and President of Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) responded

“As CEO of an energy company with nuclear, coal and natural gas-fueled power plants, I found the alarms raised in your editorial about a ‘looming threat to electric reliability’ to be exaggerated. You won’t get an argument from me about the importance of reliability. However, the report you cite concludes that the EPA’s proposed clean-air rules will have a modest impact on plant retirements.

“No one disputes that mercury is harmful to human health or that the technology is available now to reduce mercury emissions dramatically. Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. invested $1.5 billion in our coal-fired power plants, reducing emissions of mercury and acid gases by 90% or more. Those projects created jobs for 1,600 construction workers and added permanent positions at our plants. We are not alone. Nearly 60% of the U.S. coal fleet has mercury-control equipment installed or under construction. The EPA’s air rules will provide the certainty to move forward with large, job-creating investments to modernize America’s electric power infrastructure.”

Jack Fusco, CEO and President of Calpine Corp., with 92 power plants in 20 states, also rebutted the WSJ’s claims.

“Contrary to what the editorial indicates, in the 40-year history of the Clean Air Act, the EPA has never let the lights go out, and it is committed to upholding this record. Our industry is well-positioned to comply with these rules.

“You misrepresent the finding in the North American Electric Reliability Corp. report, which estimates that the EPA’s air rules may potentially impact…less than 5% of the nation’s coal-fired power plants…A recent report from M.J. Bradley and Associates and the Analysis Group shows that 11 of the top 15 largest coal fleet owners in the U.S., representing half of the nation’s coal capacity, have indicated that they are well-positioned to comply with the rules.”

Exelon is another large utility that supports the utility air toxics reductions, and believes that it poses little threat to reliability.

The 22 dirty utilities and coal companies in the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity – a leader in efforts to weaken the safeguards — have nearly $18 billion in cash reserves to easily withstand any economic impact of the new pollution reductions.  President Obama and Congress must continue to ignore dirty energy pleadings to delay these pollution reductions that are essential to protect public health.

– Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress

Coal power plant picture via shutterstock

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  • Bob Percopo

    Reduction in NOx, Sox, asenic, mercury, etc are not what will decimate the coal industry since there is universal agreement that these cause severe health problems and the industry has done a great job in reducing these emissions with more reductions to come. However, its the CO2 potential restrictions that will add 25-40% to the capital cost of fossil fuel burning facilities to make plants carbon capture ready or the 80% increase to go to permanent storage that will be problematic. CO2 dangers are still debatable and unless the world adopts universal standard going the CCS route will decimate jobs and do incremental damage to an already weak economy.

    • Bob: 1) there is clear scientific consensus that global warming is caused by humans and we are inviting catastrophe. 2) Yes, coal plants should internalize such societal costs. 3) If it got to the point where the coal industry were losing jobs because of these regulations, that would mean other sources would be needed to produce electricity. those other sources, renewables, are better job creators and don’t result in us killing ourselves… so, i think they’re a better option anyway.

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