GAO: New EPA Rules Won't Be Too Challenging for Utilities

  • Susan Phillips

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

As coal is poured into a waiting barge, smoke billows from a coal powered electric plant August 26, 2001 in western, PA.

Republicans, utility companies, and the coal industry have pushed back on new air pollution rules, saying they will kill jobs and compromise reliability within the electrical grid. But a new report published last week by the Government Accountability Office says reliability won’t be too challenging to manage.

“Regarding reliability, these actions are not expected to pose widespread concerns but may contribute to challenges in some regions.”

The GAO does recommend that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy take steps to monitor, evaluate and work with industry to comply with the rules in a way that won’t disrupt the flow of electricity. And the report says some regions of the country, like the South, could suffer from electricity price hikes.
The four rules examined by the GAO include the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule; the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards; the proposed Cooling Water Intake Structures regulation; and the proposed Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals regulation. The report estimates that between two to 12 percent of coal-fired plants will shut down nationwide. Others will be retrofitted with scrubbers to reduce air emissions, and some will be converted to natural gas.

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