For years, Kansans have enjoyed lower electric rates than our friends and neighbors living in other parts of the country. That’s because the electrical generation system we rely upon was built primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. As this system ages and our energy needs change, routine upgrades have been necessary to meet new environmental standards and to increase our generation capacity. To pay for these upgrades, we have all seen increased electric rates in recent months.
But, if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its way, further increases will be much more dramatic – not to mention unnecessary.
Recently, the EPA ruled that Kansas is among the states that must address Cross-State Air Pollution. Their ruling caps some of the pollutants associated with electric generation at levels well below what was allowable in prior years. While I applaud the effort to clean up our older electrical generation units (EGUs), I am shocked at the short timeframe in which we must comply. The EPA added Kansas to its list at the last minute, leaving us with a deadline to be compliant by 2012.
To make matters worse, the EPA is also considering a rule that would not allow existing EGUs to use water direct from their reservoir for cooling. Under this rule, EGUs like LaCygne and Wolf Creek will be required to install a closed loop system, such as cooling towers – an upgrade that is estimated to cost U.S. consumers $64 billion!
But, that’s not all. The EPA is now considering a rule that would hit smaller communities the hardest. This ruling would eliminate the use of rotating internal combustion engines (RICE) for electrical generation. Electric utilities owned by small towns typically utilize RICE units, such as diesel generators, for peak generation. These small towns usually buy their base load from larger utilities because it is cheaper than operating a smaller generator. If this new EPA rule is adopted, RICE units will no longer be allowed, leaving them to be sold for scrap metal or for use in foreign countries and, thereby, reducing our own country’s generation capacity.
All of these changes will affect Kansas consumers – like you and me – more so than they will affect consumers in many other states. Why? Because, on the national level, we generate 49 percent of our electricity from coal. But, in Kansas, we generate along the lines of 80 percent of our electricity from this resource.
Some of the major electric utility companies have documented the anticipated effect of these EPA rules, referring to the impact as the “train wreck.” According to their projections, the “train wreck,” which will occur if the EPA adopts these new rules, will significantly drive up electric rates for consumers and reduce our electric generation capacity by 8 percent.
The bottom line is this: We need to take a rational approach in this country to upgrading our electrical generation system. We can – and must – keep our Kansas skies safe and clean. But, we can do this without inflicting dramatic rate increases on Kansas families and business owners. People have struggled enough already in this economy. The EPA’s proposal would cast a wet blanket over the entire Kansas economy with rules that are too broad, too overreaching, and that carry an unrealistic implementation deadline. The EPA should target U.S. power plants that are using older technology for pollution control, starting with the dirtiest plants first.
I urge you to call your Kansas Congressional delegates and tell them “thank you” for their work to stop this train wreck from happening. Let’s hope the rest of Congress will follow their lead.
Senator Pat Apple, Louisburg Chair of the Kansas Senate Committee on Utilities
EPA “train wreck” to hit small Kansas towns