Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 10

THE POWER OF A MILLION
Co-op members flood EPA with millions of comments - but will they listen?

by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop

W

hen the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked for comments on its proposed new regulations aimed at coalfired power plants, electric cooperative
members responded with more than 1.1 million
comments. Stacked on top of one another, these
comments would tower nearly 10 stories higher
than the Statue of Liberty. The comments included
more than 305,000 sent by Missourians.
"Those comments all had one thing in common,"
said Barry Hart, CEO of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives. "They told EPA in no uncertain terms that they can't afford the rate increases
those regulations would cause."
The issue involves regulations proposed by the
EPA that would reduce the options for generating
affordable electricity by making it more difficult to
use coal for energy production. That is of particular
concern to utilities in Missouri, since 80 percent of
the electricity here comes from coal generation.
Meanwhile, electric cooperatives have taken all
of the cost-effective steps possible to reduce emissions from their coal fleet, spending more than $1
billion to remove up to 90 percent of the emissions.
In addition, millions have been spent on a massive energy-efficiency program. Over the lifespan of
the energy-efficient appliances installed, this effort
already has reduced enough demand for electricity
to power a city the size of Columbia, Mo.
Hart noted that when electric rates increase -
and the EPA acknowledges they will under the proposed plan - the burden disproportionally falls on
rural America and electric co-op members. Electric
co-ops serve 93 percent of the counties where poverty is persistent. Rural communities in general
have been slower to recover from the recession.
"Put simply, electric co-op members can't afford
to pay more for electricity," Hart said.
Legislators also weighed in on the proposed
"Clean Power Plan" as the comment period drew to
a close on Dec. 1. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt met with a

variety of groups to gauge the impact these regulations would have on the economy. He led a bipartisan group of 21 U.S. senators in sending a letter
to President Obama urging him to "stop punishing
American families with higher utility bills."
"The most vulnerable families and individuals
among us are hit the hardest by bad energy policies
resulting in high utility bills because these are the
consumers who already spend a significant amount
of their disposable income on energy," Blunt wrote.
"I ask that you withdraw the Clean Power Plan and
conduct a full analysis of the effects of new power
plant regulations on all ratepayers, especially lower-income communities, before moving forward."
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith also opposed the measure. "This rule could mean crippling price increases for electricity and a destabilization of our nation's
power grid," he said. "More than being just another ill-conceived regulation that industry leaders
oppose, this is an unprecedented expansion of the
EPA's rulemaking authority, and I am adamantly
opposed to it."
The million comments came from people of all
walks of life, including farmers, small business
owners and senior citizens on fixed incomes. These
comments are typical of the many sent to the EPA
by Missourians:
"Most of Missouri's electricity comes from coal,
and being a widow living on Social Security, I cannot afford higher rates for my power bill," a member
of White River Valley Electric wrote.
"Your agency is overreaching, doing real harm to
average Americans for the sake of your own environmental ideals," wrote a member from Laclede
Electric Cooperative. "I support common sense conservation and have myself participated in activities
to clean up my local natural environment. But the
course you are taking will hurt folks who cannot
afford the cost you wish to impose on them."
"As you drive up the cost of electricity via more
regulation, you drive jobs overseas. Eventually,
if we lose our economic might, someone else will
decide what is good for us, and I don't think we will

like it," added a Cuivre River Electric member.
"As senior citizens, we are on a fixed income and
we need reliable electric power for our well-being.
The proposed regulations, which will have a disastrous impact on power plants using coal, negatively threaten us both financially and health-wise.
We ask that the EPA, which is at least theoretically supposed to be working for us, reconsider these
proposals, which will diminish our quality of life,"
said a Callaway Electric member.
A Black River Electric member wrote: "I am concerned that you at the EPA have no idea what it
takes to make ends meet at home or in business.
I run my own company, and I find that I cannot
afford to heat or cool my work site or my home as
cost effectively as in the past. I have installed all the
energy-saving items I can, but every month, I have
to make tough choices on my energy use. I used to
have four employees, now I have one - myself. Stop
playing with my future and any chance I have to put
something back for savings and retirement."
Hart thanked the many Missourians who sent
comments. He said the sheer magnitude of the comments can't help but make a difference.
He also pledged to keep fighting for members at
the end of the line who rely on affordable and reliable electricity at their homes and businesses.
"Those 1.1 million comments from across the
country underscore the demand for common sense
from the EPA," Hart said. "But will the EPA listen? American families and businesses continue
to struggle, and the proposed EPA regulations will
only add to their burden."
During winter cold or extreme summer heat,
Americans must rely on every available power-generating asset and cannot
afford to shut down power
plants. Do no harm
is the first rule in
medicine. EPA
would do well
to follow
it, too.

1 million comments would tower nearly 10 stories higher than the Statue of Liberty

400'
305'
288'

70'
White House

U.S. Capitol

Statue of Liberty

1 million comments

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Rural Missouri - January 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2015

Contents
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Intro
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Contents
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 4
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Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover4
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