Utility CEO support EPA’s new air-quality standards

Plus Exelon’s John Rowe speaks at AEI

Your editorial “The EPA Permitorium” (Nov. 22) mischaracterizes the EPA’s air-quality regulations. These are required under the Clean Air Act, which a bipartisan Congress and a Republican president amended in 1990, and many are in response to court orders requiring the EPA to fix regulations that courts ruled invalid.

That’s the opening of a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, “We’re OK With the EPA’s New Air-Quality Regulations,” by the heads of several major electric utilities.  Below is the rest of the letter followed by a discussion of a speech given by one of those executives, Exelon’s John Rowe, at American Enterprise Institute.

The letter is by Peter Darbee, chairman, president and CEO,PG&E Corp.; Jack Fusco, president and CEO, Calpine Corp.; Lewis Hay, chairman and CEO, NextEra Energy, Inc.; Ralph Izzo, chairman, president and CEO, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc.; Thomas King, president, National Grid USA,; John Rowe, chairman and CEO, Exelon Corp.; Mayo Shattuck, chairman, president and CEO, Constellation Energy Group; Larry Weis, general manager, Austin Energy.  It continues:

The electric sector has known that these rules were coming. Many companies, including ours, have already invested in modern air-pollution control technologies and cleaner and more efficient power plants. For over a decade, companies have recognized that the industry would need to install controls to comply with the act’s air toxicity requirements, and the technology exists to cost effectively control such emissions, including mercury and acid gases. The EPA is now under a court deadline to finalize that rule before the end of 2011 because of the previous delays.

To suggest that plants are retiring because of the EPA’s regulations fails to recognize that lower power prices and depressed demand are the primary retirement drivers. The units retiring are generally small, old and inefficient. These retirements are long overdue.

Contrary to the claims that the EPA’s agenda will have negative economic consequences, our companies’ experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability.

The time to make greater use of existing modern units and to further modernize our nation’s generating fleet is now. Our companies are committed to ensuring the EPA develops and implements the regulations consistent with the act’s requirements.

What follows is post by Matt Woelfel, CAP Energy Team Intern.  It is a follow-up to my post, “Energy Policy: Above all, stop doing harm!

John Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, ventured into hostile territory this morning of March 8th to deliver a message to the American Enterprise Institute endorsing EPA air quality safegaurds. “AEI and other conservative, pro-market think tanks have been skeptical about market-based carbon legislation,” said the head of the largest electric and gas utility company in the United States, but

They have not put the same emphasis on the policies that would distort markets.  Beware lest your fear of second-best solutions opens you to far worse”¦Congress needs to let the EPA do its work on the transport and toxics rules.

As a prominent CEO in an industry that has on the whole sought to undermine EPA’s ability to limit harmful pollution, Rowe’s recommendations, together with this letter from a strong showing of executives in the energy sector, serve to highlight the multiple benefits of pollution limits.

Rowe explained that contrary to the claims of Big Oil and Koch Industries, EPA health measures are not job-killing measures””the rules will in fact create jobs by providing a consistent framework for job creation. He cited a recent University of Massachusetts study, which found that

Between 2010 and 2015 capital investments in pollution controls would create 291,577 year-round jobs on average for each of those five years.

And that’s just the beginning. National health, too, stands to improve thanks to these limits. For the past 40 years, the EPA has protected the health of the American people.  Initially, these protections were afforded “with overwhelming bi-partisan support – with 93 percent of the House voting for it and 89 percent of the Senate.” Rowe warned that

You cannot argue that sulfur dioxide, particulates, mercury, arsenic, lead, hydrochloric acid and other acid gases, dioxins and the other toxins are not harmful to human health.

Human health is an overriding consideration for Rowe and his company as they continue to expand natural gas use. Throughout his speech, Rowe lauded the properties of natural gas as a bridge fuel for transitioning towards a clean energy economy. And although natural gas does represent an opportunity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while increasing energy independence, it must be extracted carefully and safely. Transparency and EPA safeguards can ensure that hydraulic fracking does not harm our water supply. And the natural gas industry stands to benefit from government assistance creating markets, financing new technologies , and building clean energy infrastructure.

Natural gas is not the “magic bullet” for solving the energy problems facing our nation. The government must take an active role in promoting clean, renewable technologies that diversify our energy portfolio and reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports. In order to reach President Obama’s goal of 80% clean energy by 2035, the Center for American Progress has recommended a number of proposals, such as extending 1603 and 48C programs and implementing CLEAN contracts that provide stable, effective incentives to stimulate clean energy generation.

The United States cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels. As John Rowe so clearly stated, EPA limits must remain in place for the sake of both the American economy and American public health. It just remains to be seen whether the conservatives gathered at AEI this morning will be attentive to recommendations of the pro-health, pro-jobs executive who is the self-proclaimed “most consistently pro-market CEO in [the] industry.”

Read the Exelon press release here.

See John Rowe’s Speech at AEI here.

5 Responses to Utility CEO support EPA’s new air-quality standards

  1. Wes Rolley says:

    That is great. Let’s all stand up and give a cheer, then sit back down and go back to work because absolutely nothing will change in Congress.
    Upton will shrug his shoulders and mutter “so what” and Inhofe won’t even waste that much energy on the matter.

    Now, if those executives started to donate money to the campaign funds of opponents of Upton, Inhofe, etc., then it might be worth a standing ovation.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Good for him/them.

    Many power producers get it, finally.

    Congress seems mired in the previous century, if not the one before that.

  3. Mimikatz says:

    Responsible companies have always supported reasonable regulations not just in the environmental area. Without them, the field goes to the most pathological and irresponsible companies. They gain a competitive advantage because they basically care only about maximizing their own profit and have fewer moral constraints.. Reasonable regulations level the playing field so that the Koches of the world don’t have such an advantage.

    We need to hear more from those people, from the military and from the other forces who understand. Upton needs a real opponent and his constituents need to know he is putting their children at risk for personal political gain.

  4. Solar Jim says:

    “You cannot argue that sulfur dioxide, particulates, mercury, arsenic, lead, hydrochloric acid and other acid gases, dioxins and the other toxins are not harmful to human health.”

    Precisely John Rowe. Another name for carbon dioxide is carbonic acid gas, and dose determines toxicity. When added to water it becomes carbonic acid. Coral reefs, the marine gardens of ocean life, and many other ecosystems are already succumbing to acidification and global heating.

    I suggest you invest your utility aggressively in end-use efficiency upgrades and renewable generation, including distributed and district clean energy systems, and abandon the use of your many nukes (radiological toxins) and increasing methane generation. I also suggest you might reconsider use of the term “and other acid gases.”

    Thanks for standing up against the neocon ecocidal plutocrats. At least you don’t seem totally insane.

  5. Edward says:

    The electric utilities realized that they can bill customers for the cleanup and make a profit on it.