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Clean power plan targets states that depend on coal

WHEELING, W.Va. — With coal generating nearly all the state’s electricity, West Virginia residential customers pay just over 10 cents per kilowatt hour, which is about enough power to run a television for 10 straight hours.

Those living in Connecticut, however, with virtually no coal-fired power, pay more than double the amount for their electricity at 23 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan may soon lead to higher electric bills for those in states such as West Virginia and Ohio that primarily rely on coal to generate their wattage. Formally announced Monday, proponents said the goal is to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 compared to 2005 levels by the year 2030.

The EIA shows 76 percent of carbon emissions from power plants come from those that run on coal, such as American Electric Power’s Mitchell Plant in Marshall County and its Cardinal Plant in Jefferson County, as well as the FirstEnergy Corp. W.H. Sammis Plant in Jefferson County.

“It is still hard to say what, if any, impact this will have on rates,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton said.

Via its Mon Power subsidiary, FirstEnergy provides electricity to customers in Hancock, Brooke, Wetzel and Tyler counties. Walton said her firm has already acted to curb carbon pollution 25 percent below 2005 levels.

“We are still in the middle of a long and complex regulatory process, and will need to further review this rule,” she added.

By the end of May, including the Marshall County Kammer Plant, American Electric Power took 5,535 megawatts of coal-fired generation off the grid to comply with the Obama administration’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which comprise a different set of regulations from the Clean Power Plan. Columbus, Ohio-based AEP is the parent firm of both Appalachian Power and AEP Ohio.

“AEP has long supported and taken action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We have cut CO2 emissions from our power plants by more than 15 percent annually since 2005, and we will achieve additional reductions in the years ahead as our generation mix changes. By the end of 2016, we’ll have retired or refueled 28 coal-fueled generating units totaling 7,900 megawatts,” AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said, though she said further specifics regarding planned shutdowns was unavailable Monday.

“It is important to remember that the true impact of the Clean Power Plan on the cost of electricity and the ability to maintain a reliable power supply won’t be clear until we have implementation plans that detail how the states propose to achieve CO2 reductions. That process will take several years,” she added.

According to a statement from the White House, the Clean Power Plan will save an average American family nearly $85 on an annual energy bill by 2030, while saving consumers a total of $155 billion from 2020-2030 – and will “create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability.” Officials said the strategy will prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed work and school days.

“The American people overwhelmingly support these efforts. And to know how much work grassroots activists have put into getting this national climate action to happen – it’s thrilling to see yet again how much of a force the people can be when we work together,” Verena Owen, leader of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said. “I am excited by how much the Clean Power Plan will benefit communities and families in the form of lower electricity bills, better health, increased clean energy, and more jobs.”

While acknowledging the plan will likely lead to job losses in states that depend on coal, White House officials said the scheme will provide an unspecified amount of funding for “job creation, job training and other employment services for workers and communities impacted by layoffs at coal mines and coal-fired power plants …”

“We will remain engaged in the process and intend to continue pursuing reasonable ways to reduce CO2 emissions that preserve reliable and affordable electricity service for our customers,” McHenry added.

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