Arlington, Va., February 16, 2012 — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association expressed concern about the potential impact of tight compliance deadlines and other provisions in the Utility Mercury Air Toxics Standards on the electric rates of rural electric consumers. The new rule, released late in 2011 by the Environmental Protection Agency, was recently made final.
"Electric cooperatives support efforts to improve air quality that effectively promote environmental objectives without unnecessarily raising costs for the end-use consumer or compromising reliability and safety. On these grounds, EPA's Utility MATS rule misses the mark," said NRECA CEO Glenn English.
"Cooperatives face unique challenges under EPA's compliance deadlines since our not-for-profit systems are forced to compete with big power companies for engineering experts and equipment vendors. Additional regulatory flexibility on the deadlines would help not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives protect grid reliability while meeting their environmental obligations."
"We are disappointed the administration failed to provide greater flexibility. If co-ops are forced to purchase alternative generation at wholesale market rates to ensure reliability, cooperative consumer-members will ultimately bear the cost," English said.
"We believe EPA used flawed methodology in determining the standards for existing power plants; and unfortunately the MATS rule also includes unachievable emissions limits for new power plants," English said.
Nationwide, since the Clean Air Act was amended in 1990, cooperatives have reduced their sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by about two-thirds. NRECA anticipates electric cooperatives will reduce emissions by an additional 50 percent over the next five years, resulting in a total reduction of 80 percent since 1990. Achieving these reductions has also reduced emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.
Electric cooperatives are leading a collaborative research effort to develop lower-cost, effective controls and are investing in new technologies that reduce mercury and other emissions to protect public health and the environment.
NRECA is a national service organization that represents the nation's more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.