Utility Company's Coal-fired Lies Laid Bare


Photo credit: lowjumpingfrog via Flickr/CC BY

American Electric Power is one of the largest utilities in the U.S. Last week, it made some waves when it announced that due to impending E.P.A. clean air rules, it would have to prematurely shut down some 24 of its coal plants. It positioned the announcement as a scare tactic, designed to frighten the public into thinking that pulling these plants offline would leave good, hardworking Americans without power -- and jobs -- all because of the big, nasty, overreaching Environmental Protection Agency.

But A.E.P. was lying through its teeth, and doing so egregiously enough to warrant a scolding from the New York Times on its op-ed page:

American Electric Power, one of the nation's largest utilities, warned last week that new air quality rules could force it to "prematurely" shut down about two dozen big coal-fired units and fire hundreds of workers. This is a deceptive and particularly cynical claim. The utility is making a business decision that has little to do with the rules.

Here is what A.E.P. is not saying: These units are, on average, 55 years old. Some are running at only 5 percent of capacity. Many had long been slated for retirement, in part to comply with a 2007 settlement with the George W. Bush administration in which the company agreed to settle violations of the Clean Air Act by spending $4.7 billion to retire or retrofit aging units. Blaming the rules is a transparent scare tactic designed to weaken the administration's resolve while playing to industry supporters on Capitol Hill.

In short, the honchos at A.E.P. are being opportunistic, deceitful asses. These plants are incredibly old and polluting, and some are even running at a loss to the operators. A.E.P. knows they have to go -- they just want to win some political points before they do, and rile up the anti-regulatory crowd.

And the rules they're protesting? Regulations that would clamp down on the amount of toxic chemicals, like mercury, the plants would be allowed to emit. The EPA is working to protect the health of American citizens -- the clean air regulations will save an estimated 17,000 lives a year -- and the utility is simply making a political maneuver in order to profit off the inevitable.

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Tags: Coal | United States