* Rules slated to begin over next three years
* Rule to cut toxic emissions due by Dec. 16
* Coal burners want more time to comply with rules
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, Dec 1 Clean air rules the U.S.
government is slated to impose on power generators over the
next three years will not impair the ability of the grid to
deliver electricity to consumers, the Department of Energy said
in a report on Thursday.
The U.S. Environmental Protection agency is slated to
finalize a rule by Dec. 16 that would slash emissions of
mercury and other toxic gases from coal-fired power plants, one
of a slate of air pollution measures opposed by industry and
Republicans in Congress.
"Our review, combined with several other studies,
demonstrate that new EPA rules ... should not create resource
adequacy issues," said David Sandalow, assistant secretary for
international affairs at the Energy Department.
The mercury rule, known as maximum achievable control
technology, or utility MACT, would mostly make power stations
that burn coal to start cutting the emissions by 2015. Under
the proposal companies could also ask for an extra year to
The EPA says the clean air rules will save more money in
overall U.S. healthcare bills than they will cost heavy
industry, which will have to make investments in technologies
to clean up smokestack emissions.
INDUSTRY DIVIDED OVER RULES
But the rules have created a division in the power sector.
Companies that boast large nuclear power and natural gas
capacity mostly support the rules, while companies that burn
large amounts of coal have asked the EPA for more time to adapt
to the rules.
Anthony Topazi, the chief operating officer Southern Co. said environmental controls would take up to six years
to perfect at the company's coal-burning plants.
"We cannot simultaneously satisfy the requirements of the
proposed (mercury) rule and provide reliable service to our
customers from 2015 to 2017," said Topazi.
And the North American Electric Reliability Corp, which is
responsible for keeping the power grid reliable, issued a
report this week that said the mercury rule when combined with
other EPA clean air rules could force some power plants to shut
and threaten reliability in Texas and New England.
Other reports have said problems would be minimal and Gina
McCarthy, an EPA assistant administrator for air, has said
agency rules have not led to power reliability problems in the
40-year history of the Clean Air Act.
The DOE said that even in a stringent test case of the EPA
rules, the overall ability of the power grid to deliver would
be adequate. It said only a small amount of additional new
generation capacity, some of which is already under
development, would be needed to maintain regional planning
targets for power.