Last week, Bloomberg reported that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory push against the fossil fuel industry will cost America’s largest utility, the Southern Company, up to $18 billion in compliance costs. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
According to data in a filing by Southern last week, the EPA’s new emissions requirements cannot be met in the three years allowed by the agency. The results: more power plant closures, spikes in electricity prices, job losses, and increased power outages.
Southern’s filing demonstrates that, based on company data from actual upgrade projects, the EPA’s compliance timetable in its proposed “Utility MACT” rule is simply impossible to achieve. Southern has undertaken more upgrade and compliance projects than any other power producer.
Take scrubbers: Over the past seven years, it has installed 16 of them to capture emissions. The average time to complete each upgrade was 54 months—a full year-and-a-half longer than the EPA is now demanding for the entire industry to comply.
The installation of filter systems, another emissions control technology, takes anywhere from 34 to 48 months from start to finish. And Southern’s figures show that, with most of the low-hanging fruit of easy upgrades already completed, the EPA-required installations would come in at the far end of that timeline.
“Controlling the entire fleet by 2015 cannot be done at any cost,” the company concludes.
As a result, plants that can’t be upgraded in time must be taken off line in 2015. With less power available on the grid, electricity prices are forecast to spike by 11.5 percent nationwide in 2016, causing hundreds of thousands of job losses across the economy, according to National Economic Research Associates.
And according to Bernstein Research, the EPA’s rules will slash reserve capacity—i.e., the availability of electricity generating capacity to meet peak demand and plug power interruptions—resulting in increased power outages of longer duration. In a hot summer like this one, that means rolling blackouts, loss of air conditioning, and potentially heat-related deaths.
The Obama EPA’s disdain for the most abundant domestic energy sources is well known, but the consequences of its regulatory onslaught are only now gaining public attention. Congress should, at the very least, extend the EPA’s impossible compliance deadline to avert some of the economic damage and job loss that are the inevitable result of the EPA’s war on domestic energy. Even better, Congress should consider whether regulation is called for at all—a question which the EPA has, prior to this Administration, answered in the negative.