Guest commentary: An uncertain future for power plants
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Hugh McVey and Dan Mehan
October 19, 2011
The near-term future of our nation's and Missouri's economies is filled with uncertainty. Our struggle back from one of the largest economic downturns in U.S. history is extremely challenging.
Compounding our situation even more are the pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will both threaten jobs and increase costs on energy consumers in Missouri.
This has led the two of us — a representative of an organization that promotes Missouri businesses and a representative of Missouri's working men and women — to urge the EPA to take a more reasonable, responsible approach.
The EPA has proposed rigorous, new regulations on coal-based electricity power plants. These regulations will be implemented under a compressed compliance timeline and without consideration of the cumulative economic and system reliability impacts.
Federal EPA officials hold out that these regulations will result in nothing but good news. However, studies show this is not the case.
Many business, labor and consumer groups are urging caution on the pending regulations and together we are adding our voices to theirs.
The EPA's new rules will require ambitious compliance by hundreds of power plants in the very near future — some within three years.
Each power plant operator would have to determine what new equipment they might need to meet the proposed regulations and guess what may be required by other, forthcoming regulations.
Companies would then have to place orders for the necessary, large-scale equipment from a limited number of factories able to manufacture them.
Everything about these pending EPA regulations is a moving part — the rules themselves, their deadlines for compliance, the technological remedies and the workforce needed to install the technology.
We believe the short time frame for compliance and the potential implementation of even more federal regulations will bring extraordinary harm to our state and nation's economic well "'being.
The EPA's rush to force compliance risks tens of thousands of jobs nationwide in the utility, coal mining and
transportation sectors. There is no question the cost of electricity will soar as low- cost power plants are shut down prematurely and the electricity they provide is displaced with higher-cost alternatives; this will result in every business and family facing higher costs.
Even if the national and state economies were in better shape, such an extensive series of rulemaking would challenge utility decision makers and power plant operators.
In a time of great economic uncertainty, this could burden Missouri workers, businesses and families with job losses and energy price increases that we cannot afford.
While Missouri and the national economy is on the delicate path to recovery, we urge the EPA and the Obama Administration to slow down the federal regulations and extend the compliance timetable for a reasonable period of time. Missouri's working families and businesses cannot afford otherwise.
Hugh McVey is president of the Missouri AFL-CIO. Dan Mehan is president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.