JACKSON — A Mississippi utility regulator has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider and put on hold air pollution restrictions that were recently revised.
Lynn Posey, chairman of the Public Service Commission, said in a letter to the EPA that while its decision this week to ease the restrictions was welcome, the revisions don’t go far enough. Posey argues the emission restrictions could lead to utilities producing less electricity.
The revisions “do not come close to alleviating the commission’s concerns for ratepayers and the reliability of our power grid,” Posey said in the letter.
The rule is designed to decrease smokestack emissions, mostly from coal-fired power plants, in 27 states, that contribute to unhealthy air downwind. The proposed fix to the cross-state pollution rule would allow 10 states, including Mississippi, to emit more smog-causing pollution than had initially been allowed.
Along with Mississippi, the EPA said the changes will ease the restrictions for Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Arkansas.
The rule is meant to help reduce smokestack pollution causing smog and soot in downwind states.
Posey said Mississippi utilities could curtail local power generation, possibly as much as 46 percent.
“Such a drastic curtailment will lead to a less reliable system and will place significant upward pressure on the cost of electricity, which Mississippi ratepayers cannot afford.
“A less reliable system at a higher cost is a bad deal for Mississippi and our country,” Posey said.
Mississippi Power Co. President and CEO Ed Day had said in an earlier interview with the Associated Press that the EPA rule was unreasonable.
Day said the rule would allow the federal government and not the states to set the emissions standards.
“What they are basically saying is that in order to run your coal operations we are going to allocate to you certain emissions allowances,” Day said.
Day said that would make some coal fired plants less economical to run. He said the rule would prompt many companies to switch to natural gas, driving up the cost of fuel.
Day said it takes time — several years — to install emissions controlling equipment or to switch to another fuel source.
At Plant Daniel in Jackson County, Mississippi Power officials have said they are waiting for the EPA to establish the final rules before it starts in earnest on a $600 million project to reduce emissions in its two coal-powered units.
The plant has four generation units — two fed by coal and two fed by natural gas. The two coal units supply about 20 percent of the company’s customers.