Energy, E.P.A., and Excessive Regulations- A Guest Op-Ed from Representative Chuck Martin

June 10, 2014 8:00 am

by Scarlet Hawk · 8 comments

Many Congressional members from the South have spoken out against the Obama Administration’s energy regulations.  Representative Chuck Martin, (R-49) offers his opinion on these regulations as they would impact our state.   He is the co-chairman of the Council of State Governments Energy and Environment Committee, member of the General Assembly’s House Regulated Industries Committee and member of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee.  He sponsored resolution H.R. 1158, which passed during this past legislative session. The resolution calls on the Obama Administration to establish a national energy policy that strengthens access to and removes impediments from all available domestic sources of energy.  This post is entirely the opinion of the Chairman, who was courteous enough to choose to share it with us. 

An Important Step Toward an Energy Policy that Works for Georgia

During my years representing Georgia’s 49th District, I’ve voted on countless resolutions and bills that have a direct impact on Georgia residents. And, as co-chairman of the Council of State Governments Energy and Environment Committee, I know how important affordable electricity is for households and businesses across our state.

That’s why I sponsored Resolution 1158 which just passed the Georgia state legislature with near-unanimous support. The resolution calls on the Obama Administration to be true to its word and establish a national energy policy that strengthens access to and removes impediments from all available domestic sources of energy. I’m encouraged that our Georgia General Assembly has agreed on this common sense resolution that demonstrates our commitment to the balanced, low-cost energy portfolio on which our state and country rely.

Georgia has a diverse energy mix, using many fuel sources to power our energy needs. But we must remember that our state depends on coal to keep our economy moving forward. In fact, in 2013, coal generated around one-third of Georgia’s electricity. In addition to being a major source of power generation, coal-based electricity provides more than 24,000 jobs and contributes almost $2.8 billion to the state’s economy.

Without a national energy policy that embodies a true “all-of-the-above” strategy, those substantial economic benefits will be threatened by arbitrary EPA regulations that are already taking a toll on our economy. So far, 15 coal-based power units are scheduled to close or convert in Georgia because of EPA policies. That equates to more than 3,200 Megawatts of electricity—enough to power 320,000 homes.

EPA regulations are even more mind-boggling when you consider that Georgia utilities have invested more than $5.3 billion to equip power plants with advanced emissions controls. These investments, and the great progress achieved, are apparently not enough for an overzealous EPA that seems intent on keeping America from using coal in the future.

By removing coal as a fuel option, we will all —without question—see our energy costs rise. Inevitably, a rise in energy costs will impact Georgia families the most. A recent study concluded that Georgia households with annual incomes below $50,000 spend an average of 24 percent of their after-tax incomes on energy. Georgia families and families across our nation cannot afford an increase due to an out of touch EPA at this time; we must to do all we can to ensure this expenditure does not increase.

As laid out in Georgia House Resolution 1158, when Congress passed the Clean Air Act, it plainly charged the states with establishing regulatory standards for greenhouse gas emissions. Here in Georgia, we understand the energy needs of our communities better than any federal agency in Washington, D.C. And, we know that a “one-size-fits-all” rule won’t work for our state. House Resolution 1158 will reduce emissions and make real improvements in how we generate our power; but not at the expense of Georgia consumers, who are my top priority.

Georgia is blessed to have so many diverse fuel sources at our disposal, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind and hydro. We must enact energy policies that utilize them all—smartly and efficiently. As we work to reduce emissions, we should also be keen to prioritize the interests of electricity consumers in Georgia. I would like to personally thank all the members of the General Assembly who voted “yes” and passed this important measure to preserve Georgia’s affordable, dependable energy portfolio.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Huttman June 10, 2014 at 11:42 am

Coal plants are closing already because natural gas is cheaper. It also happens to be cleaner. When Georgia brings on its new nuclear capacity, an even smaller percentage of the state’s portfolio will come from coal. This helps Georgia comply with the EPA regulations – but most of these decisions were made far in advance of Obama’s announcement.

The job stat is a meaningless throwaway – if they close a coal plant and open a natural gas plant each plant needs employees.

Jas June 12, 2014 at 8:47 am

I hope you’re ready for rolling brownouts then. Current pipeline capacity simply cannot keep up with demand at certain peak times. Remember back during January’s snow storms how much of the state kept power? Yeah, that was because of our coal plants.

Harry June 10, 2014 at 2:27 pm
Ellynn June 10, 2014 at 2:34 pm

We complain alot about what Presidents don’t and can do (pick any one in the last 40 years). Yet not a one has created an energy plan and the power companies love us because it. Conffussion means they don’t need to do anything.

If you want to fix the local power issues, wonderful. We can start by not letting the Southern Company raise our rates whenever it feels like it. If we force then to make due with what we give them, they will find ways to reduce costs, make energey production more effiecent and still follow the rules. People have been talking about the high emission rates of coal plants for as long as I have been alive. Southern knew they would have to one day upgrade and find new sources, but instead of doing so they paid out higher dividends to share holders and then begged the state to raise rates. They planned poorly, and now they have to buck up and deal with it.

Dave Bearse June 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm

What’s to buck up about? Georgia Power is already burning a fraction of the coal is was a only half dozen years ago, and profits are as a solid as ever.

Ellynn June 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm

and yet they still whine…

Jackster June 10, 2014 at 7:31 pm

I don’t know if I’d call their planning poor – they bought the best lawyers, influence, and regulations money can buy.

Dave Bearse June 10, 2014 at 10:12 pm

“By removing coal as a fuel option, we will all —without question—see our energy costs rise.”

Conservatives and business often overstate costs of proposed regulation. The country went a couple of decades without significantly increasing motor vehicle mileage requirements supposedly because of cost, but prices haven’t skyrocketed as recent new higher standard are becoming effective.

To the issue at hand, (1) I don’t think coal will be removed as a fuel option, and on the other, and

(2) Georgia electricity generation costs should have already risen significantly if it will be so costly to switch from coal. 2/3rds of more of the state’s power was from coal only a half dozen years ago.

Over the next year and a half coal-fired 1.5MW Plant Branch is being decommissioned, and units at coal-fired 1.25MW Plant Yates are being decommissioned or converted to natural gas, further reducing down the fraction of electricity derived from coal. (That will leave us with four very large coal-burning plants, Hammond west of Rome, Bowen west of Cartersville, Wansley west of Newnan, and Scherer north of Macon.) Guess we can expect to pay exorbitantly higher electric rates by ’16, just like inflation was crushing the country a couple of years after the ’08 recession.