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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: New Power Plant Rules

CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- President Obama proposed new rules to cut emissions at electric power plants in an effort to curb global warming Monday.

This cutback in greenhouse gases can affect our utility rates.  The new limits on greenhouse gas emissions will give states until mid-2018, in some circumstances, to determine how they'll reach their targets.  This delay, until after President Obama leaves office, raises questions about the fate of the proposed legislation.

The rules to cut back carbon emissions from power plants are  expected to lead to the closing of coal-fired electric generating plants.  Plants like Duke Energy's Beckjord facility, which is slated to close by next year due to existing  environmental regulations.  Duke has retired or has announced retirement of nearly 6,800 megawatts of older coal and large oil-fired generation plants.
          
A Duke spokeswoman says it's too soon to say what effect these new regulations would have on electric rates.  But, we're already seeing rates go  up in anticipation of the new regulations.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts, if enacted, the new rules would lead to an increase in electric rates totaling 17 billion dollars a year over the next 16 years.  This, because it predicts the rules could force the closure of 114,000 megawatts of coal plants over that time.
      
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy, says the rules are needed to cutback on greenhouse gases which, she says, has led to climate change.

Gina McCarthy, "In 2030 when the states meet their final goals it will result in 30% less carbon pollution from the power sector across the United States in comparison to 2005 levels."

Just to put that in perspective, that's as if they cancelled out all the annual carbon pollution from 2/3 of the cars and trucks in America.  At this point, the nation  has 600 coal-fired plants which still produce 39-percent of the nation's energy.  Republicans in Congress are vowing to challenge the President's emissions plan saying it will cost jobs. 

Some utility companies have been given approval to add fees to cover the additional cost of generating electricity.  Duke Energy filed its own request for such a fee on Thursday.  If approved, next year you'd see a small increase in Duke's electric bills  in the winter and a small decrease in summer.  But again, that has to be approved.



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