Energy & Environment, Top Story

Co-op Rep: EPA Off Base on Carbon

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 11th, 2012

A Mid-Atlantic G&T official told a congressional panel that a federal carbon reduction standard impairs the plans of his cooperative and other electric utilities for future baseload generation.

David Hudgins

David Hudgins

David Hudgins said the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to state a clear benefit to its proposed limits on greenhouse gases at new fossil-fuel plants and wrongly assumes that utilities can rely on unproven carbon capture and storage technology to meet them.

“No company will take the risk to invest billions of dollars into a power plant in the hopes that CCS technology will be developed,” said Hudgins, director of member and external relations at Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.

“Additionally, financial lending institutions will not lend money to construct a plant without a viable technology to demonstrate compliance,” he said.

Hudgins testified June 6 at a House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on environmental regulations, with an emphasis on the costs and benefits of EPA’s new source performance standards for new fossil-fuel power plants.

That’s a major matter of concern for Glen Allen, Va.-based ODEC, which serves 11 distribution co-ops in three states. To meet growing demand, it is planning a $5 billion, state-of-the-art baseload plant in southeast Virginia that uses coal and renewable biomass.

ODEC has been working on carbon sequestration research, but Hudgins said the technology is unlikely to be commercially viable within a decade, as the agency insists.

That means the rule will push utilities from coal to natural gas, which has a volatile price history, he noted.

“Electricity affordability from natural gas generation is significantly driven by the fuel’s price. EPA’s proposed standard will effectively eliminate ODEC’s choice for affordable baseload electric power,” Hudgins said. He urged the subcommittee to take steps to persuade EPA to withdraw the rule.

White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein declined to appear at the hearing, explaining the birth of his child kept him away. Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris, R-Md., still wants to hear the Obama administration’s justification for the rule.

“The proposal is a de facto ban on new clean coal-generated electricity in this country, as well as directly at odds with the president’s ‘all of the above’ energy rhetoric,” he said.

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