EPA mandate will impact co-op members

The proposal of new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants has Ohio’s electric cooperatives deeply concerned about the potential financial impact to their more than 380,000 members and the reliability of the electrical system if these proposed rules go into effect.

With a national goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030, the Environmental Protection Agency is calling for drastic reductions in the use of coal to generate electricity.

“Even though the EPA has promised to give the states flexibility in developing their compliance plans, ultimately the rule will force states to greatly reduce the amount of electricity generated from affordable coal, driving up prices,” said Pat O’Loughlin, COO and senior vice president of the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc., and Buckeye Power, Inc.

Coal-fired power generation is the primary source of electricity for Ohio’s cooperative members and, after spending more than $1 billion on environmental control systems, Ohio’s co-ops operate some of the cleanest coal units of their kind in the world.

“When this past winter’s bitter cold pushed natural gas supplies to their limits, we saw how important coal is in keeping the lights on and homes warm,” O’Loughlin said. “Reducing the amount of coal in the generation mix threatens reliability. Ohio and the nation need a diverse energy supply that everyone can afford.”

It will be up to the Ohio EPA to develop an implementation plan that determines how the state can meet the goal set by the U.S. EPA.

“Our co-op members can be assured that we are examining every detail of the proposed rule and will work closely with the Ohio EPA and other stakeholders as the state’s plan is developed,” O’Loughlin said.

The concern isn’t limited to Ohio as rural co-op members across the nation are likely to be affected by the cost and reliability impacts of the proposed rule.

“New EPA regulations that add to the price of electricity have serious consequences for our communities, jobs and families,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “America’s electric cooperatives are naturally concerned that these regulations will increase electricity prices and force power plant shutdowns, thereby harming the economy and jobs of hard-working Americans.”