August 29, 2014

Coal industry: Proposed EPA rules will mean higher power bills

About 70% of the electricity used in Nebraska homes and businesses comes from coal-fired power plants and the nation’s coal industry contends proposed federal regulations will “make it almost impossible” to build new coal plants in America.

Lisa Camooso Miller — vice president of media relations for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — says many existing coal-burning facilities won’t be able to meet the new standards and will have to close.

“It’s going to be a significant impact,” Camooso Miller says. “…You’ll have to look for new sources of electricity,” Camooso Miller says.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency have been conducting a “listening tour” this fall, seeking public comment on proposed regulations that would require new coal-fired power plants to have equipment that captures carbon emissions.

Camooso Miller says Nebraska and the nine other states that depend most heavily on coal-fired electricity aren’t part of the tour.

“The impact is going to be high, especially in the manufacturing sector, because it’s the cost for electricity not just in your home, but if you think about it, the goods and services that we count on every day — small businesses, farming, you name it,” Camooso Miller says. “Everybody is counting on electricity in one way or another.”

Critics say one-third of the carbon emissions in the U.S. come from coal-burning power plants and the plants also emit high levels of mercury and arsenic. Others say it’s wiser to fuel Nebraska power plants with the natural gas that’s available locally rather than ship in coal from out-of-state. Camooso Miller says both coal and natural gas should be options.

“We need to develop and use all of the resources we have,” she says. “If you think about how much energy you use in your home today and how much you used, maybe five years ago — I know for me I have two small kids at home, there’s just about no outlet available in the evenings because everything’s charging up.”

Nebraska’s coal-fired power plants use low-sulfur coal from nearby mines in Wyoming.