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Now is the time for action on emissions standards

There may still be a chance to affect change on the new restrictive emission standards that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing.

Though he says it appears to be a long shot at this point, Greg Bertelsen, the director of Energy and Resource Policy for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), says involvement in the issue is the best weapon to fight back against the possibly devastating emission limits.

“Frankly, we have found that (the EPA) tends to listen to governors and state air boards and even other kinds of state groups more than they’ll listen to us on a lot of this stuff,” said Bertelsen.

Bertelsen spoke earlier this week during a conference call webinar of the Manufacturing and Mining Committee of Associated Industries of Missouri. He said for now, NAM is focusing its efforts on the rule being written by EPA for existing power generating plants.

“We’re focusing on that because that rule is still being written,” said Bertelsen. “We probably have a month to two month window where we can still have some influence on that proposed rule.”

In September, the EPA issued a set of proposed standards to limit emissions from new power plants. The standards are currently not achievable due to the fact that equipment that would cut the emissions from these plants to the level proposed by EPA does not exist.

Some new plants are going to try new technologies that may reduce carbon emissions to the levels called for by EPA, but the new technologies have added more than $1.4 billion to the cost of a plant being constructed in Mississippi. That is resulting in a 15 percent increase in electric rates for customers of Mississippi Power, with an additional 3 percent to come.

And as bad as that may be, Bertelsen says similar rules would probably put existing coal-fired plants out of business. But, he says, the groundswell of dissent against those rules, which probably wouldn’t go into effect until 2016 or later, hasn’t struck many large manufacturers.

“Energy intensive businesses in high coal power generating states (like Missouri) need to get involved with friendly utility commissions, RTOs, grid operators and other entities that will be able to tell the EPA just what will happen when a whole other level of the energy suite is taken off the grid,” said Bertelsen.

Bertelsen says in the weeks and months ahead, NAM will be publishing some new materials, including the results of a several months-long study, to educate its membership on what the impacts on energy prices will be due to new EPA regulations.

There is also a least one bill on Capitol Hill that seeks to put boundaries on both the new source and the existing source rules. Bertelsen urges members of AIM to get involved on the issue by spreading knowledge on to local U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators as well as local and state utility boards.

“Education on this issue is our friend, spread the word,” said Bertelsen. “To make an impact on this discussion, we need help from our state partners.”

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