Environmental Protection Agency carbon emission regulations currently in development could result in rate hikes for local power customers.

Environmental Protection Agency carbon emission regulations currently in development could result in rate hikes for local power customers.  
On Nov. 13, representatives from the McPherson Board of Public Utilities attended a stakeholder listening session at the EPA’s Region Seven offices in Lenexa. Region Seven includes the states of Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.
“Eighty-five percent of our energy comes from coal fire generation,” Maier said. “One of the big concerns is that, while other fuels have a filtration device that can be installed, there is no such commercially viable device for coal.”
BPU purchases power from Westar Energy. Westar uses coal to generate power. BPU uses cleaner but more expensive natural gas. BPU has four power units of its own, but the power it generates is purchased by Westar for use in the larger regional.
BPU’s units were used less than 600 hours last year, operating only during the summer heat when electricity demand was high.
Should there be no filtration alternative available for coal-fired energy production, regulations may require other fuels, such as natural gas to be used more frequently.
 Maier said if natural gas were used for more power generation, the cost of power to the consumers could increase. Depending on how much natural gas is used, the cost of operation could increase by 50 to 100 percent.
“Fuel cost makes up a third to a half of the cost, which goes on to the customer,” Maier said.
According to the EPA, electricity production from the combustion of fossil fuels is the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. While carbon dioxide does occur in nature and is present in the atmosphere, if produced in large enough quantities, the pollutant becomes a greenhouse gas, causing or accelerating global warming, according to the EPA.
EPA studies show electricity production account for about 38 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and burning coal produces more carbon dioxide than oil or natural gas.
On June 25, President Obama issued a memorandum challenging the EPA to establish rules and regulations setting carbon pollution standards in the United States as part of his Climate Action Plan.
EPA Region 7 Spokesperson David Bryan said the stakeholder listening session was part of a far larger campaign, which also will include public listening sessions.
“We’re wanting everyone in the power industry to come and give us information and ideas on the best way to do this,” Bryan said. “The beauty of what we’re doing is, right now we have a clean slate. All the arguments for and against aspects of carbon emission control will be considered. The economic impact will be considered. We want customers and producers to factor into the equation. It’s not a simple issue.”
Maier said it was important to remember the EPA is just gathering information.
“They’re in listening mode,” Maier said, “and they’re giving people in the industry an opportunity to express our concerns and bring up important issues.”
The EPA’s goal is to be able to present its carbon emission control plan in June 2014.

Contact Jeremy Webster by email at jwebster@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @WebsterSentinel.