Thanks to Obama’s EPA regulations, Georgia Power will be shutting down 15 coal, oil and natural gas-fired power plants in the state, which will kill 480 jobs over the next few years. In their announcement earlier this week, they cited the decreasing natural gas costs as well as new mercury regulations that make it too costly to keep the plants open as reasons for needing to shut them down.
The EPA claims that it will cost about $10 billion to implement the new mercury rules, but that the changes will result in as much as $140 billion in annual benefits. A “progressive” blog explained what these benefits presumably are:
“These rules will remove millions of pounds of mercury, lead, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants from coal plants, preventing 17,000 premature deaths annually. Although EPA estimates that it will cost utilities $10.9 billion to clean up, it will save at least $59 billion in fewer premature deaths, lower health care costs, and fewer absences from work or school.”
Besides the fact that independent analyses estimate that the cost of complying is more like $70 to $200 billion instead of just $10 billion, the monetized health benefits are all based on assumptions that are questionable at best. According to Dr. Anne Smith, Senior VP of NERA Economic Consulting’s Global Environment Group, the annual benefits resulting from just mercury reductions are more like $500,000 to $6 million. The majority of the annual benefits quoted by the EPA would be from “coincidental reductions” of fine particulate matter, which are already regulated by another section of the Clean Air Act of 1990.
So these new regulations would be costing power plants on the order of a couple hundred billion dollars with a possible annual benefit of no more than $6 million. No wonder Georgia Power can’t afford to keep several of their plants open. Collectively, their plants produce 18,623 MW and provide for 2.3 million customers in the state. Those 15 that they’re shutting down currently produce over 2,000 megawatts (MW). Georgians can expect their electricity bills to go up in the next couple years and to have more power interruptions.