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Nav Location: SEC Home  >   About Santee Electric  >   News and Press  >  EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” will hurt SC


EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” will hurt South Carolina

Article was added on Monday, August 04, 2014

On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its most sweeping rulemaking yet, one that will affect every American but disproportionately affect every South Carolinian.

By restricting the use of coal, this rule will change the power-supply infrastructure that your money has built and paid for over the last few decades. Despite its tremendous negative economic impact, the proposed rule will have little or no impact on the environment. However, it will have a major impact on the pocketbooks of South Carolinians.

EPA's new standards will reduce our future fuel diversity and obstruct incentives for coal technology development. One reason EPA proposes these standards is that it assumes natural gas - an abundant North American fuel - is readily available and affordable to replace coal as a fuel for new power plants. The fact is that natural gas is readily available only in certain regions. Adding to this dilemma is the fact that natural gas prices historically have been nearly impossible to forecast. Natural gas prices may be low today, but they could be significantly higher in future years.

The electric cooperatives of South Carolina are responsible for providing reliable, affordable electric power for 1.5 million South Carolinians representing 700,000 homes, farms and businesses in communities covering almost two-thirds of the state. We are a non-profit business, owned by the members we serve. Since we aren't in business to make a profit, we have no financial interest in any one power-supply option over another. We don't prefer coal-based energy because it helps us make more money; we prefer coal-based energy because it saves our member-owners money on their electric bills, simple as that.

Coal not only helps to keep your power affordable, it also helps keep it reliable. This past winter the Eastern and Midwestern areas of our country faced maximum use of their energy system. They faced restrictions in the delivery of natural gas to power plants in many areas, and on the coldest days it was offered at a cost up to 1000% (that's right, one-thousand percent) higher than normal! At times of extreme weather, a 45-day supply of coal on the ground at your local power plant provides great peace of mind and protection from price volatility. With the loss of already scheduled 2014 shutdowns of some coal plants, what will fill the void?

Coal power still provides a large portion of your electric energy. Without coal, utilities will be required to shift heavily to natural gas and nuclear. This is a problem because, even with the shale-gas revolution, natural gas energy costs about twice as much as coal. Nuclear is expensive and takes time to build. The sting for South Carolina is that we do not have the large capacity gas pipe lines through a large portion of the state that we can rely on for the level of production we would need to fill the gap.

Years ago our power supplier and other South Carolina utilities began planning for strategic reductions in CO2 emissions with a balanced approach between environmental stewardship, reliability and cost. The initiatives they have proactively undertaken will reduce emissions far ahead of the national average. The EPA's draft rule makes many assumptions about electrical distribution in South Carolina and essentially removes the benefits of these initiatives from EPA's reduction targets.

In its newest proposed rule, the EPA has chosen to set independent carbon dioxide emission standards for each state, based on their estimate of that state's ability to comply. Quizzically, this has resulted in South Carolina reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 51% - the 3rd most significant percentage! The current proposal does not allow us to consider the V.C. Summer nuclear units coming online in 2018 or 2019 as part of our efforts, which would reduce our target to 39%.

  Said another way, to meet the nationwide "30% target" reduction, South Carolina will actually be required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from 1,587 lbs. CO2 per MWh to 772 lbs. CO2 per MWh. When we compare the total reduction of pounds of CO2 per MWh (815), our burden is more than any other State in the Union! Our early actions are being discounted and South Carolinians will be asked to spend far more money to achieve a target stricter than that of all other states.

The EPA established each state's reduction target by analyzing four "Building Blocks." South Carolina Cooperative's power supplier has already reached the limits on the first two building blocks; plant efficiencies and using maximum natural gas capacity. Since our nuclear project is not being considered that leaves the last two building blocks of implementing renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency in our homes and businesses. Both result in expensive alternatives that may not be reachable. 

 As we are forced to move away from coal for power generation, the energy will need to be replaced. Reduced energy competition combined with increasing energy demand and costly energy options will inevitably increase your electric bill. Exactly how much it will increase will depend on which EPA-approved method theSouth CarolinaDepartmentof Health and EnvironmentalControl (DHEC) will choose to restrict the use of coal in the state.

South Carolina communities and schools will bear additional pain in the form of job losses, loss of local economic activity and loss of tax revenues when the existing coal plants cease operation. Many of these power plant jobs are the best jobs in their local community, and their loss will have a devastating impact on the rural South Carolina economy. The assumption that the loss of jobs will be offset by renewable energy jobs is a gross miscalculation.

Whatever your view may be on the science of climate change, the proposed regulations will do little to affect the planet. When fully implemented, the regulations will reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide by less than 1%. This is hardly noticeable on a planetary basis, but it will definitely be noticed by South Carolina communities who will deal with job losses, loss of tax base and increasing electric bills.

Citizens have only 70 some days left to comment on this rule and its impacts. You can help us send a message to the EPA by visiting our website at It takes only a minute and can help ensure that the EPA hears from South Carolina before it's too late.

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