Utility rates likely to rise with new EPA Rules

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Misssour News Horizon
-- Spokesmen for the state’s two largest generators of electricity say rates are likely to rise now that the Environmental Protection Agency has announced new limits on air pollution from coal fired power plants. 

The limits are aimed at slashing the emissions of pollutants such as mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. The rules are aimed at coal-fired power plants in 27 states.

The EPA said in its December 21st ruling that more than half of the power plants in those states are already equipped with emissions scrubbing systems that will make the plants compliant with the directive.

But spokesmen for KCP&L and Ameren Missouri said that while some of their plants already have the pollution abatement equipment in place, rate payers will eventually end up paying for the costly equipment.

“When folks think about the EPA and the EPA rules, they need to know that those costs get ultimately passed down to customers,” said Chuck Caisley, Vice President of Marketing and Public Affairs at KCP&L.

Caisley said the utility had been anticipating the EPA’s ruling “for a number of years” and had already installed emissions controlling equipment in many of its coal-fired plants in Missouri and Kansas. But he said those costs have already run beyond $1 billion with another $1 billion to outfit the rest of its plants in Missouri with the same equipment.

“We were able to see this coming and we were able to retrofit some of our units ahead of time,” said Caisley. “So, as a result, we have been able to help the Kansas City area ozone attainment levels ahead of schedule.”

Caisley said the retrofitting projects have also provided jobs during tough economic times in western Missouri.

Spokesmen for Ameren Missouri did not return phone calls from Missouri News Horizon, but last week told the St. Louis Beacon that retro-fitting its coal fired plants in Illinois and Missouri would cost more than $200 million over three to five years.

Ameren operates four coal-fired powers plants in Missouri and only the Sioux Power Station northeast of St. Louis has a scrubber system to remove sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.

Environmental groups hail the ruling, saying the new standards will improve the health of children all across the United States, not just in Missouri. 

“This landmark achievement reflects what every parent knows, which is that powering our homes should not poison Missouri’s kids,” said Ted Mathys, State Advocate for Environment Missouri.

Environment Missouri recently released a report that said that Missouri power plants emit more mercury than those in 46 other states. It cites Ameren’s Labadie power plant in Franklin County as the second worst mercury emitter in the United States.

The study asserts that power plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, and link mercury to cancer, heart disease, brain damage, birth defects, asthma attacks, and premature death. The EPA estimates that the new standards will prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and save 11,000 lives each year.

“This landmark standard will improve Missourians’ quality of life and protect children today and for generations to come from known poisons,” said Mathys. 

Power generating companies can have up to four years to comply with the EPA’s new pollution standards.