Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Washington Whispers: why on earth would gas, nuclear lobbies back coal lobby's call to delay coal power plant cleanup?

Inside the Beltway is abuzz this week about a letter (below) sent to President Obama by various industry lobbies. The letter urges delays in EPA’s power plant cleanup for mercury and other toxic pollutants (an announcement is now expected next Monday).

Some of the letter signers are no surprise, given the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s opposition.

But here is the buzz – and the big question: why are the American Gas Association and the Nuclear Energy Institute among those calling for delays in coal power plant cleanup? Hasn’t one of the big claims been that the cleanup would reduce coal use—and lead to more use of alternatives, especially gas? I best most of the members of some of these groups – especially the gas and nuclear crowd – had no idea their DC representatives were selling them out.

Is this simply a case of inside-the-Beltway lobbyists scratching each other’s back – even if that harms member companies of those lobbies? (One of DC’s secrets is that the lobbyists do need to keep creating billable hours for themselves.) Do some of the most strident cleanup opponents, particularly Southern Company and American Electric Power, have enough juice to persuade the gas and nuclear lobbies to slit their own wrists?

Or could this just be a classic case of anti-regulatory political ideology triumphing over factual reality?

In any case, the President should ignore this silly letter. Coal power plant cleanup is long overdue. It will be highly cost effective. And it will save lives and prevent sickness.



December 9, 2011

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:

The organizations listed below share a common belief that affordable and reliable electricity is
critical to our economic growth and job creation. We also share a deep concern that the Utility
MACT rule, due to be issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 16,
2011 could cause significant electricity reliability constraints that would have a ripple effect
through our fragile economy, hurting businesses of all sizes. We urge you, as President, to
provide the leadership necessary to ensure that electric reliability risks of the final rule can be
managed effectively.

Reasonable regulation and regulatory certainty are essential for businesses to grow and prosper.
By contrast, regulatory uncertainty is a deterrent to putting Americans back to work, particularly
for small businesses. The potential costs of the UtilityMACT rule could have a major impact on
job creation and consumer demand for our products and services.

It is clear that some utilities will need additional time to comply with this rule beyond the three
or four years allowed under the Clean Air Act. Utilities must replace power plants, install
compliance equipment and build new natural gas pipelines and transmission lines. This is going
to cost tens of billions of dollars and require a reasonable number of years for a smooth transition
to a cleaner generating fleet. If the final rule fails to recognize these realities, our entire economy
will suffer.

The organizations responsible for the reliability of the electric grid—including the North
American Electric Reliability Corporation and regional transmission organizations—have
expressed serious concerns about the impact of the Utility MACT rule on reliability as electric
utilities replace power plants and install controls on so many plants during the same short time
period. The members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is
ultimately responsible for grid reliability, stated as recently as last Wednesday, that utilities
should not be forced to choose between reliable electric service and meeting environmental
requirements. While we agree with EPA’s proposal to provide an additional year to some power
plants for the installation of controls, we believe it should be a categorical extension of time. We
also urge you to delegate your presidential exemption authority under the Clean Air Act to
provide additional time as needed to those facilities that are making good-faith efforts to achieve
compliance.

We believe the goals of protecting public health and the environment and maintaining a reliable
electric system can both be met through an orderly and realistic transition period under the
Utility MACT rule. Achieving these goals will require your presidential leadership, and we urge
you to act.

Respectfully yours,

American Coatings Association
American Council of Engineering Companies
American Forest & Paper Association
American Foundry Society
American Frozen Food Institute
American Gas Association
American Iron & Steel Institute
Arizona Electric Power Cooperative
Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce
Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc.
Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. - Illinois Chapter
Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. - Rhode Island Chapter
Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. - Nevada Chapter
Associated Electric Cooperative (MO)
Associated Equipment Distributors
Associated General Contractors of America
Associated Industries of Arkansas
Association of American Railroads
Basin Electric Power Cooperative (ND)
Bay City Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture (TX)
Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce (NE)
Big Rivers Electric Corp (KY)
Birmingham Business Alliance
Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce
Brazos Electric Power Cooperative (TX)
Bristol Chamber of Commerce
Burlington/West Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce (IA)
Burnsville Chamber of Commerce (MN)
Business Council of Alabama
Business Roundtable
Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce (OH)
Catawba County Chamber of Commerce (NC)
Center for Regulatory Effectiveness
Central Electric Power Cooperative (MO)
Central Electric Power Cooperative (SC)
Central Montana Electric Power Cooperative
Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry
Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce
Corn Belt Power Cooperative (IA)
Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce
East Kentucky Power Cooperative
East River Power Cooperative (SD)
Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce (WI)
Edison Electric Institute
Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce (MN)
Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce
Fentress County Chamber of Commerce (TN)
Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce (AZ)
Fullerton Chamber of Commerce (CA)
Georgia Chamber of Commerce
Georgia Transmission Corporation
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
Grants Pass & Josephine County Chamber of Commerce (OR)
Great River Energy (MN)
Greater Centralia Illinois Chamber of Commerce
Greater Cleveland Partnership
Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce
Greater Omaha Chamber
Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
Greater Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce (NM)
Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce (GA)
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce (VA)
Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative (IN)
Indiana Cast Metals Association
Indiana Chamber of Commerce
International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce (MN)
Johnson City Chamber of Commerce (TN)
Joliet Chamber of Commerce
Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce (MI)
Kankakee Regional Chamber of Commerce (IL)
Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Kansas Electric Power Cooperative
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce (IL)
Louisiana Association of Business & Industry
Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce (IA)
Metalcasters of Minnesota
Metals Service Center Institute
Midwest Power Coalition
Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
Minnkota Power Cooperative (ND)
Mississippi Economic Council
Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce (AL)
Monona Chamber of Commerce (WI)
Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce (WV)
National Association of Chemical Distributors
National Association of Manufacturers
National Black Chamber of Commerce
National Electrical Manufacturers Association
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Restaurant Association
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Nebraska Electric G&T Cooperative
Non-Ferrous Founders’ Society
North American Die Casting Association
North American Equipment Dealers Association
North Carolina Chamber of Commerce
North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation
North Dakota Chamber of Commerce
Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Northwest Electric Power Cooperative (MO)
Nuclear Energy Institute
Oglethorpe Power Cooperative (GA)
Ohio Cast Metals Association
Ohio Chamber of Commerce
Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (VA)
One Southern Indiana
Oskaloosa Area Chamber & Development Group (IA)
Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative (OR)
Pennsylvania Foundry Association
Portland Cement Association
PowerSouth Energy Cooperative (AL)
Prince William Chamber of Commerce (VA)
Rushmore Electric Power Cooperative (SD)
San Miguel Electric Cooperative (TX)
Seminole Electric Cooperative (FL)
South Carolina Chamber of Commerce
South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry
South Mississippi Electric Power Association
Southern Illinois Power Cooperative
Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber (MI)
Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Texas Association of Business
Texas Cast Metals Association
Tex-La Electric Cooperative
Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Wabash Valley Power Association (IN)
West Virginia Chamber of Commerce
Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (OK)
Wisconsin Cast Metals Association
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce
cc: The Members of the United States Congress

1 comment:

Alan Nogee said...

Frank,
Delay probably helps nuclear's opportunity to compete to replace any retiring coal plants, since they are not close to ready to ramp up. As I'm sure you know, parts of the gas industry have supported stronger regs and have been willing to take on coal. But most of the industry, which is closely tied to the oil industry, is really stuck in an anti-regulatory mindset, in my opinion, even though there is an enormous potential market opportunity for them to replace coal. For shame.
Alan Nogee
@alannogee