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