Democratic Senator: Environmental Protection Agency Out of Control

Susan Jones | June 10, 2011 | 6:27am EDT
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Coal-burning power plant. (AP photo)

( - Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the former governor of coal-producing West Virginia, is blasting the Obama administration for using the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal-fueled power plants out of business.

On Thursday, American Electric Power company announced that to comply with a series of EPA regulations, it will close five coal-fired plants -- three in West Virginia and one each in Ohio and Virginia -- at a net cost of 600 jobs.

American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states.

"We have worked for months to develop a compliance plan that will mitigate the impact of these rules for our customers and preserve jobs, but because of the unrealistic compliance timelines in the EPA proposals, we will have to prematurely shut down nearly 25 percent of our current coal-fueled generating capacity, cut hundreds of good power plant jobs, and invest billions of dollars in capital to retire, retrofit and replace coal-fueled power plants," said AEP Chairman and CEO Michael G. Morris.

"The sudden increase in electricity rates and impacts on state economies will be significant at a time when people and states are still struggling,” he added.

The plant closures in West Virginia alone will result in 242 lost jobs -- "and that's simply wrong," Manchin said:

“Let me be clear, it’s decisions like the one made by AEP today that demonstrate the urgent need to rein in government agencies like the EPA, preventing them from overstepping their bounds and imposing regulations that not only cost us good American jobs, but hurt our economy.

“It is because of out-of-control agencies like the EPA as well as the need to protect American jobs that I sponsored the REINS Act -- a commonsense measure that will help protect and create jobs by reining in needless or burdensome regulations, and that will put responsibility back where it belongs – in the hands of the people who are elected to govern and lead this great nation,” Manchin concluded.

During his campaign for president, Barack Obama admitted that "if somebody wants to build a coal fired plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

The cost of AEP’s compliance plan could range from $6-$8 billion in capital investment through the end of the decade, the company said. That's in addition to the $7.2 billion that AEP has invested since 1990 to reduce emissions from its coal-fired plants.

The company noted that annual emissions of nitrogen oxides from AEP plants are 80 percent lower today than they were in 1990, and sulfur dioxide emissions are 73 percent lower than they were in 1990.

“We support regulations that achieve long-term environmental benefits while protecting customers, the economy and the reliability of the electric grid, but the cumulative impacts of the EPA’s current regulatory path have been vastly underestimated, particularly in Midwest states dependent on coal to fuel their economies, AEP said.

The company said while some jobs will be created from the installation of emissions-reduction equipment, AEP expects a net loss of around 600 power plant jobs with annual wages totaling approximately $40 million as a result of complying with the proposed EPA rules.

“We will continue to work through the EPA process with the hope that the agency will recognize the cumulative impact of the proposed rules and develop a more reasonable compliance schedule. We also will continue talking with lawmakers in Washington about a legislative approach that would achieve the same long-term environmental goals with less negative impact on jobs and the U.S. economy,” Morris said.

“With more time and flexibility, we will get to the same level of emission reductions, but it will cost our customers less and will prevent premature job losses, extend the construction job benefits, and ensure the ongoing reliability of the electric system.”

AEP said the following plants will be closed by the end of 2014:

-- Glen Lyn Plant, Glen Lyn, Va.
-- Kammer Plant, Moundsville, W.Va.
-- Kanawha River Plant, Glasgow, W.Va.
-- Phillip Sporn Plant, New Haven, W.Va.
-- Picway Plant, Lockbourne, Ohio

In addition, AEP plans to scale back power generation at six plants.

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