Iowa Public Television

 

EPA rules threaten older power plants

posted on December 16, 2011


WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 32 mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to shut down and an additional 36 might have to close because of new federal air pollution regulations, according to an Associated Press survey.

Together, those plants produce enough electricity for more than 22 million households, but their demise probably won't cause homes to go dark.

The fallout will be most acute for the towns where power plant smokestacks long have cast a shadow. Tax revenues and jobs will be lost, and investments in new power plants and pollution controls probably will raise electric bills.

The survey, based on interviews with 55 power plant operators and on the Environmental Protection Agency's own prediction of power plant retirements, rebuts claims by critics of the regulations and some electric power producers.

They have predicted the EPA rules will kill coal as a power source and force blackouts, basing their argument on estimates from energy analysts, congressional offices, government regulators, unions and interest groups. Many of those studies inflate the number of plants retiring by counting those shutting down for reasons other than the two EPA rules.

The AP surveyed electricity-generating companies about what they plan to do and the effects on power supply and jobs. It was the first survey of its kind.

The estimate also was based in part on EPA computer models that predict which fossil-fuel generating units are likely to be retired early to comply with the rules, and which were likely to be retired anyway.

The agency has estimated that 14.7 gigawatts, enough power for more than 11 million households, will be retired from the power grid in the 2014-15 period when the two new rules take effect.

The first rule curbs air pollution in states downwind from dirty power plants. The second, expected to be announced Monday, would set the first standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plant smokestacks.

Combined, the rules could do away with more than 8 percent of the coal-fired generation nationwide, the AP found. The oldest and dirtiest plants would be sacrificed.

These plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them. But that didn't happen.

Other rules in the works, dealing with cooling water intakes at power plants and coal ash disposal, could cause the retirement of additional generating plants. Those rules weren't included in the AP survey.


Tags: Air coal electricity energy efficiency Environmental Protection Agency news pollution regulations savings