Mead: Coal Regulations will Hurt Everyone

(Wyoming Tribune Eagle, May 16) – Expected federal rules on coal-fired power plants will damage the state’s economy and hike the costs of electricity and everyday products.

That was the warning issued by Gov. Matt Mead on Wednesday.

“Each individual is going to pay for it,” he said. “Not just in heating and cooling, but in the cost of everything. (That’s) because energy is tied to everything we consume and use on a daily basis.

“Everyone should care about the cost of electricity, and therefore, everyone should care about how we continue to use coal.”

Mead made the comments during the first day of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority’s spring board meeting here. It ends today.

Much of the day-long meeting focused on the status, and the potential impacts, of several planned or proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-fired plants.

Those include a plan to cut regional haze by requiring stricter emission controls for coal plants than a similar state strategy proposes.

Wyoming, the nation’s top coal producer, is contesting the rule in court.

State officials say the federal plan will not noticeably improve visibility, compared to the state’s offering. But the feds’ would cost

utilities hundreds of millions of dollars in extra costs, they add.

EPA also is crafting landmark rules that would limit carbon emissions from new and existing coal plants.

The regulations for new coal-fired plants would require the plants to use carbon capture and sequestration technology.

But the rules are unlikely to have an immediate impact. This is because utilities have been building cheaper natural gas-fired, instead of coal-fired, plants in recent years.

But not-yet-announced limitations for existing plants could have sweeping effects that could force many coal plants to shut down well before their planned retirement dates, officials say.

EPA’s policies are key components of President Barack Obama’s plan to fight climate change.

But Mead and several other state and industry officials said Wednesday that the policies are wrong for Wyoming and for the rest of the country.

Mead said he remains skeptical of claims that climate change is caused by man-made factors, such as coal, which is a heavy contributor of carbon emissions.

But he added that even if he was convinced there is a link between coal and climate change, he still would oppose efforts to limit or eliminate coal as an energy source.

Instead, he said the country should work to advance clean coal technology and find a sustainable way to use it.

“Shouldn’t we say that coal is a valuable resource that we want to use today and for the next 300 or 400 years or whatever it may be?” he said.

“So let’s find solutions. You are not going to find solutions by putting unreasonable rules or regulations that prevent new coal-fired power plants from being produced.”

During a panel discussion earlier in the day, speakers also raised concerns that the rules on existing plants will hurt Wyoming ratepayers.

Alan Minier is chairman of the Wyoming Public Service Commission. He said he recently sent a letter to EPA requesting that it give states flexibility to keep existing coal plants operating over their life cycle.

He said shuttering the facilities early would leave utilities with millions of dollars in stranded assets. And that very likely would lead to rate hikes for consumers, he added.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative is looking at a $750 million cost to upgrade its Laramie River Power Station to comply with the haze requirements, said Lyle Witham with the utility. The Laramie River station is located east of Wheatland.

But this might not even be enough to meet the carbon emissions limits under the forthcoming rules for existing coal plants, he added.

“Under this new rule, are we going to be able to operate in 20 years? That is a fundamental question,” Witham said. “(Whether existing plants keep running) is going to have a fundamental impact on how much our customers are going to have to pay for electricity out of our facilities.”

But as the Wyoming officials decry the rules, environmentalists and others says not addressing climate change and carbon emissions will have economic consequences.

During a speech last week in California, Obama pointed to the recently released U.S. National Climate Assessment. Its findings show that climate change is to blame for costly weather events and low agricultural production in Western states.

“What they found was unequivocally that climate change is not some far-off problem in the future,” Obama said. “It’s happening now. It’s causing hardship now. …

“It’s already costing cities and states and families and businesses money.”

Original article here.