Ox­ford’s stake in EPA-pro­posed CO2 reg­u­la­tions

The Covington News - - LOCAL - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­news.com

Ox­ford’s elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion and rates may change in the com­ing years af­ter a new car­bon diox­ide reg­u­la­tions pro­posal was re­leased by the U.S. EPA in June.

The 1,800-page draft of CO2 reg­u­la­tions, ti­tled the Clean Power Plan, is cur­rently in the 120-day stage of ac­cept­ing com­ments, in­clud­ing four pub­lic hear­ings the week of July 28 in At­lanta, Den­ver, Pitts­burg and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The new poli­cies, if adopted, will re­quire Ge­or­gia to re­duce fos­sil fuel emis­sions by 44 per­cent.

Coal-pow­ered power plants are the largest source of car­bon pol­lu­tion in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the EPA, ac­count­ing for one-third of all do­mes­tic green­house gas emis­sions.

“It doesn’t af­fect us di­rectly, but it af­fects where we get our elec­tric­ity,” said Bob Thom­son, Ox­ford city man­ager.

Reg­u­la­tions would be im­ple­mented through a state-fed­eral part­ner­ship that al­lows states to iden­tify an in­di­vid­ual path for curb­ing CO2 emis­sions from the power sec­tor us­ing state-spe­cific rate-based goals and guide­lines, ac­cord­ing to the EPA.

Since ev­ery city has a dif­fer­ent makeup of how it gen­er­ates elec­tric­ity, the plan is meant to pro­vide flex­i­bil­ity while en­sur­ing en­force­ment. While this is a fed­er­ally cre­ated plan, each state will de­velop its own plan, as the “EPA is not pre­scrib­ing a spe­cific set of mea­sures for states to put in their plans.”

Cur­rently, Schwartz said, 37 per­cent of Ox­ford’s elec­tric­ity is gen­er­ated by coal, 4 per­cent by hy­dro and 59 per­cent by nu­clear. Ox­ford is one of 49 mem­bers of the Mu­nic­i­pal Elec­tric Au­thor­ity of Ge­or­gia (MEAG), which con­tract for elec­tric­ity by in­vest­ing in projects that pro­duce elec­tric­ity, which are usu­ally gen­er­at­ing plants. The new plan would re­quire MEAG to stop run­ning plants that are more eco­nom­i­cally ac­cept­able and fo­cus on run­ning plants that are more en­vi­ron­men­tally ac­cept­able.

With this new reg­u­la­tion, if adopted, cities will have to ramp back coal use over a yet undecided amount of time by con­vert­ing to an­other use of power. Schwartz said Ox­ford’s in­vest­ments tend to be 50-year bonds, so if those bond are still in place by the time coal use must be cut, the city will still have to pay for the bonds without re­ceiv­ing elec­tric­ity.

“It’d be bad for Ox­ford rate pay­ers be­cause they would be pay­ing es­sen­tially a mort­gage on plants we can­not use as much,” Schwartz said.

How­ever, Schwartz said, the en­force­ments are likely to be put into place slowly. If the time span is over, say, 50 years, Ox­ford was plan­ning on do­ing that any­way.

Be­ing part of MEAG saves the city money in the long run, Schwartz said. MEAG also pro­vides in­sur­ance, promis­ing to pro­vide a sub­sti­tute source if cities have to switch away from coal im­me­di­ately.

Schwartz said this is like an alert and ad­vice from MEAG that there may be prob­lems with sourc­ing elec­tric­ity from coal plants in the fu­ture, and that noth­ing will change in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

“Com­pared to other cities and providers,” Schwartz said, “we’re rel­a­tively low in coal us­age.”

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