MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Less than a decade ago, American Electric Power invested more than $10 billion to retrofit the Mitchell and Cardinal power plants and others within the company with “scrubbers” to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and particulates being emitted into the air.
Now, it appears as if that investment – ultimately paid by customers through higher electricity rates – may be wasted, as new rules proposed last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency require a 19 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in West Virginia and a 28 percent reduction in Ohio.
The power industry says those targets are unreachable with modern technology for any power plant in our region – save possibly for the new Longview Plant outside Morgantown – to be able to operate past 2030 while still burning coal.
Portions of the United States’ economy were built on having affordable, dependable power sources – power produced in regions such as the Upper Ohio Valley, where coal is plentiful. The proposed EPA rule, for the first time, places that security into jeopardy, as a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the plan will cost America’s economy more than $50 billion a year between now and 2030. The report also finds the rules will cost America about 224,000 jobs per year.
The report, “Assessing the Impact of Potential New Carbon Regulations in the United States,” gives an “accurate picture of the costs and benefits associated with the administration’s plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through unprecedented and aggressive EPA regulations,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
“Our analysis shows that Americans will pay significantly more for electricity, see slower economic growth and fewer jobs, and have less disposable income, while a slight reduction in carbon emissions will be overwhelmed by global increases,” she said.
Those global increases are expected to rise by 31 percent between 2011 and 2030. However, the Energy Institute’s analysis found that EPA regulations for the United States would reduce the domestic emissions level by just 1.8 percentage points.
It’s not as if emissions levels have not been dropping considerably over the past few years, particularly in West Virginia.