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Polluter claims that EPA rules will increase electricity 80% are lies

Politicians and coal companies are telling lies about costs of new EPA rules on carbon pollution.
Politicians and coal companies are telling lies about costs of new EPA rules on carbon pollution.
Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

If one listens to radio, watches TV, or surfs the Internet, they will be inundated with ads and statements by climate change deniers that the proposed EPA rules to reduce carbon pollution will raise electric bills by 80 percent. Those are not just exaggerations, they are patently false.

For instance, Xcel Energy in Colorado asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for a rate hike, to be phased in over the next couple years, to cover the costs of compiling with the proposed new EPA rules on carbon reduction. Xcel didn’t ask for a rate increase of 80 percent, or 70 percent, or even 20 percent. Xcel requested a rate increase of just 4.9 percent — not much more than the inflation rate. This is about $5 per month for the average electric customer.

And some of that increase is due to rising property tax, not the EPA rules according to Xcel as reported by The Denver Post.

“Nobody wants rates to go up, but I think our customers are getting a lot for their money," David Eves, CEO of Xcel’s Colorado subsidiary said. "We're getting a lot of environmental benefits. These investments clearly will help Colorado comply with new greenhouse gas requirements.”

If approved typical residential rates would increase by $3.96 a month starting in 2015. An additional increase in 2016 and 2017, in the form of a bill rider, would add an additional $1.06 per month. Small-business customers would see average bills rise by a total of $8.21 a month.

Xcel will close some coal fired plants and replace them with gas — which is abundant in Colorado, and others will be retrofitted to reduce carbon.

Coal companies, climate change deniers, and their allies in Congress — mostly Republicans and some coal-state Democrats — claim that the new rules will raise energy bills 80 percent due to the high cost of compliance with the 30 percent carbon reduction required in the rules. Not only will rates not go up that much, but the costs of compliance may not be anywhere near as high as they claim.

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) in Nebraska announced on Thursday that it will retire three coal units by 2016 at its North Omaha plant and transition two other units to natural gas within a decade. Another two units at that plant will get updated pollution controls by 2016 as well, and will transition to burning natural gas by 2023. OPPD will similarly retrofit its Nebraska City coal-fired station and implement new energy-efficiency programs to reduce demand.

The utility said the changes would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 49 percent, and cut nitrogen and sulfur oxide emissions by 74 percent and 68 percent, respectively. The OPPD said Thursday that its plan to phase out coal "is only slightly more expensive than if we didn’t change our current generation portfolio to adapt to future regulations.” Rates for consumers are expected to increase between 0 and 2 percent under the plan. That is a far cry from the 80 percent the ads claim.

Despite what the utility is saying, Republicans in Congress are putting a different spin on the facts. In a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said “it's gonna cost them, ‘a hell of a lot of money.’” I guess it depends on what the definition of “hell” is.

In Utah, a utility recently entered into an agreement with First Wind, a renewable energy provider, to supply the utility with 320 megawatts of solar electricity for the next 20 years. The reason they went solar is it was the least costly option for increasing their generation capacity. This will supply electricity to 90,000 Utah homes.

It is important that the public, and voters, not be fooled by these ridiculous ads being sponsored by coal companies and other polluters like the Koch Brothers. These polluters, and the politicians they have bought and paid for, have no moral compunction against telling outright lies to manipulate public opinion into letting them continue to pollute the atmosphere with harmful carbon.

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