Coal-fired power plants continue to be regulated by the federal government. How could that impact those living on a fixed budget, and what's the future of King Coal?
New Environmental Protection Agency rules further limit power plants' mercury emissions under the Clean Air Act, set new limits on emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and establish new coal-ash disposal rules. Carmen Prati-Miller, spokeswoman for American Electric Power, acknowledged these rules will prompt AEP to retire some of its generating stations earlier than planned, but she said those decisions likely will not affect customers' electric bills.
Prati-Miller said AEP is required to comply with EPA regulations and, as a result, has retrofitted many of its plants with pollution control equipment. The Mitchell Plant south of Moundsville and the Cardinal Plant at Brilliant both have been retrofitted with scrubbers that capture and remove sulfur dioxide from the plants' emissions.
A barge moves coal up the Ohio River toward American Electric Power’s Kammer-Mitchell Plant complex. The Kammer Plant is expected to close in 2014 due to federal pollution regulations, but company officials don’t expect that to increase customers’ bills.
"Scrubbers are the current technology that drives us to compliance," she said. "Mitchell has the equipment installed, and Cardinal as well, so the future viability for continued operation of those plants is good because of the invest we have made."
That investment amounts to billions of dollars across the company, Prati-Miller noted.
The Kammer Plant that stands adjacent to Mitchell, however, will be retired earlier than scheduled due to EPA regulations.
Q: Coal-fired power plants continue to be regulated by the federal government. How could that impact those living on a fixed income, and what's the future of King Coal?
A: Studies have shown that since 2001, energy rates for consumers across America have nearly doubled. This leads to decreased spending power for seniors and their families, and more federal regulations likely on the horizon for the burning of coal could be detrimental to the nation's economy.
Kammer Plant was built in the 1950s to provide power for Ormet Primary Aluminum Corp. at Hannibal. Ormet originally owned Units 1 and 2 of the Kammer Plant, which became operational in 1958. Kammer's Unit 3 went into operation in 1959, but it was not owned by Ormet. This arrangement continued until 1967, when AEP purchased Units 1 and 2 from Ormet.
Prati-Miller said Kammer initially was scheduled to be retired in 2019, but new regulations prompted AEP to move that date up by five years to Dec. 31, 2014. It is one of 26 plants in the AEP system that will be retired as result of federal regulations, though some of those will remain in service through 2017.
Prati-Miller said the closure of Kammer will have an impact on the Ohio Valley, even if it won't raise customers' bills.
"We are a major taxpayer in Marshall County," she said. "We pay $1.7 million a year in property taxes alone for Kammer. If the plant is retired in 2014 as is the plan, property taxes will be paid through 2015 since property taxes are paid in arrears."
In state and local payroll taxes, AEP paid more than $616,000 related to the Kammer Plant in 2009. She noted that excludes federal Social Security and unemployment taxes related to the 80 employees at the plant.
Prati-Miller noted AEP is working with Kammer employees to ensure they are aware of all internal job postings and will have an opportunity to plan for their futures after the plant closes.
Regarding future rate increases, Prati-Miller said AEP has the opportunity to recover the billions invested in retrofitting its plants, and that can impact the rate base.
She also noted concerns about blackouts and reliability have been expressed since it was announced Kammer and other plants would close. She said AEP is working with a regional transmission organization, PJM, that regulates the flow of electricity to ensure reliability of services for customers in the future.
"AEP supports improvements to the environment, but they need to be done in a manner that doesn't jeopardize the energy supply or reliability and protects the communities we serve and where we are located, and that keeps costs at a reasonable level," she added.
"AEP is not against anything the EPA is doing. It just has to be done in a manner that does not jeopardize reliability."
The increase in energy costs across the country is impacting everyone's wallet, with the working class and those on fixed incomes suffering the most, according to a new study released by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
According to the study, more than half of U.S. households now devote more than 20 percent of their family budget toward energy costs, nearly double what they spent just 10 years ago.
"When government regulations increase the cost of energy, it is America's working class who shoulder the burden," said Steve Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. "A typical American family is now spending almost twice as much for energy today than it did a few years ago. For millions of Americans living on low and fixed incomes, surging energy prices mean less money for other necessities such as food, housing and health care."
The annual assessment "Energy Cost Impacts on American Families" uses data from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze energy cost increases since 2001 for U.S. households. Energy costs include transportation, home heating and cooling and electricity.
"Because coal has provided about half of America's electricity over the past decade, electricity prices have actually declined when adjusted for inflation," said Miller. "But new EPA regulations are making electricity and other energy sources unnecessarily expensive during a time of economic turmoil."