WASHINGTON, April 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- DTE Energy Executive Chairman Anthony F. Earley Jr. told Congress today that unless recently proposed federal emissions regulations are modified they could lead to higher utility rates, the premature retirement of electric generating plants, and could stall the country's fragile economic recovery. He advocated a more common-sense approach to environmental regulation.
"I think we can all agree that we must continue our tremendous progress in protecting the environment," Earley testified before the U.S. House Commerce Committee. "And I believe we can do it without making our product unaffordable and hamstringing our economy. I have long believed that economic growth and environmental progress were not mutually exclusive."
The proposed regulations – known as the Electric Generating Unit Maximum Available Control Technology or EGU MACT rule – were announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) March 16. Earley said that the rules, as written, do not provide sufficient time for utilities to plan prudently to make necessary changes to their generating fleet – including installation of new control systems, retirement of older units and development of renewable generation.
He added that other proposed regulations – including rules governing cooling water intake structures at power plants and coal ash management – intensify concerns that utilities won't have sufficient time to plan for necessary construction and other changes to the generating fleet.
"We are especially concerned about the narrow compliance window associated with some of them, particularly the EGU MACT," Earley said. "We believe it will result in more short-term thinking and approaches that will cost our customers much more in both the near and long term. This is a result that we know our customers in Detroit and the rest of southeast Michigan cannot afford."
In addition to causing unnecessary increases in utility rates, the proposed regulations would have negative economic impacts on local communities in many parts of the country. Earley testified that the regulations "will drive Detroit Edison and many companies in the Midwest and Southeast to retire up to 20 to 30 percent of our existing coal-fired capacity over a short period of time. This will result in job losses and reduced tax base for many communities."
Earley also questioned the EPA's decision not to apply a health-based standard to proposed regulation of acid gasses, but rather to require technology that isn't necessary in all cases.
"They claim that there is not enough information or time to utilize the health-based standard," he said. "Isn't that one of the very issues at hand? How wise is it to subject an industry so critical to America's way of life, its standard of living, and its economic vitality to billions of dollars of additional costs because the regulating agency does not choose to the take the time to produce a more reasonable approach?"
The Electric Power Research Institute has provided the EPA with information indicating that a health-based standard for acid gas emissions could assure the protection of public health while also reducing the financial impact on customers.
Earley acknowledged that existing regulations have resulted in significant improvement in environmental quality over several decades. "Guided by the provisions of the Clean Air Act, my own company, DTE Energy, has over the last 35 years reduced particulate emissions by over 90 percent and sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by more than 70 percent. We did this while increasing generation by approximately 45 percent," he said. "Other electric utilities have accomplished similar results."
He stressed that DTE Energy and other utility companies are committed to continue driving down emissions. "Let me be clear: we are not asking to back away from the environmental progress that the regulations are intended to achieve. We only ask that we manage the approach in a way and over a time period that minimizes the financial impact on our customers, many of whom are still struggling with the effects of the Great Recession."
DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include Detroit Edison, an electric utility serving 2.1 million customers in Southeastern Michigan, MichCon, a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan and other non-utility, energy businesses focused on gas storage and pipelines, unconventional gas production, power and industrial projects, and energy trading. Information about DTE Energy is available at dteenergy.com and at twitter.com/dte_energy.
The full text of Mr. Earley's testimony can be accessed at: http://dteenergy.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=41
SOURCE DTE Energy