By John Pippy
Pennsylvania’s elected officials should be commended for taking the time to understand the proposed federal environmental regulations and their compounded effects on a state level. Their time in considering all outcomes so that the Commonwealth’s full constituency is fairly represented is appreciated.
This past December, the comment period on the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) closed after roughly 1.6 million comments were received. The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance (PCA), along with legislators, public policy makers, electric ratepayers and laborers statewide took to paper and email to submit comments of opposition.
CONSIDER THE CONTINUED PROGRESS
The proposed plan would require that by 2030 Pennsylvania will reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent over 2012 levels. Reducing emissions is an achievable goal and the coal industry and its utility customers have been actively developing advancements and achieving generation efficiencies and pollution reductions. However, the proposed reduction and timeframe for compliance is unachievable given the absence of currently available commercial technology.
According to a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) report, “Carbon dioxide emissions from the fossil fuel-fired electric generating fleet in Pennsylvania has declined by 12 percent from 2008 through 2013.” These reductions were accomplished while Pennsylvania maintained a stable and reliable supply of electricity at competitively-priced rates lower than both the national average and 17-37 percent lower than its neighboring northern states.
CONSIDER THE 2.4 MILLION PENNSYLVANIA FAMILIES
A recent study conducted by NERA Consulting showed that if the CPP is enacted as proposed, Pennsylvania’s electric rates would increase by up to 31 percent. Roughly 2.4 million low-income and middle-income families in Pennsylvania spend almost 20 percent of their after-tax income on energy. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) released its annual Cold Weather Survey this past December and counted 23,213 households statewide at the beginning of winter that had no heat-related utility service compared with 19,653 at this time in 2013.
CONSIDER THE INDUSTRY
Coal keeps those rates low. According to the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh, the coal industry supports more than 36,000 jobs across all sectors of Pennsylvania’s workforce and contributes $4.5 billion annually to the state’s economy. Of the 36,000 jobs, some 13,000 are family-sustaining coal-industry jobs; the kinds of jobs we worry about losing to other countries.
CONSIDER THE ACHIEVABILITY
Coal accounts for 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity and 39 percent of the electric make-up nationally making it the number one source of energy in the United States. The Energy Information Administration estimates even with aggressive growth encouraged by subsidies and grants, by 2040 renewables will still only account for 16 percent of the electricity nationwide. Renewables cannot replace the reliable baseload supply of electricity that coal provides.
CONSIDER THE SUPPLY
Grid operators nationwide have conducted their own reports and publicly opposed the severe timeline for carbon emission reductions as proposed by the CPP for fear of blackouts and a lack of electric supply. In Pennsylvania, the PJM Interconnection grid which provides power to over 60 million consumers with a capacity of 142 GW, experienced demand of 141 GW on January 7, 2014 – over a 99 percent grid utilization rate. With the new and scheduled retirements of coal-fired plants, the need for reliable baseload electricity is more important than ever.
CONSIDER THE RIPPLE EFFECT
There is room for all energy types in Pennsylvania’s electric portfolio. We have been blessed with a strong and diverse supply of domestic resources that keep our prices low and attract businesses and industries that would otherwise go overseas such as manufacturing.
In 2012, manufacturing employed 574,000 Pennsylvanians, accounting for 10 percent of the total workforce with average salaries of $64,913; 44 percent higher than nonmanufacturing sectors. Without this industry, Pennsylvania’s economy would be decimated. And without a supply of low-cost, baseload electricity, Pennsylvania would lose manufacturing.
CONSIDER THE EXPERTS
The PUC stated in their comments submitted to the EPA, “…the EPA has not given sufficient consideration to the impacts its proposal will have on organized electricity markets and the challenges that the proposal presents to system reliability and the economy.”
This past October, Pennsylvania joined other states in legislative action when H.B.2354 (Act 175), was signed into law allowing for the inclusion of the state legislature, educated parties and hearings to ensure all aspects and outcomes are weighed by the appropriate parties.
All of Pennsylvania anxiously awaits the EPA’s June 2015 Plan reveal and trusts that their elected officials will consider all of the consequences of a federal environmental regulation and respectively a forced state energy policy when working with DEP to draft the State Implementation Plan.
John Pippy is CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance.