CHICAGO - The electric utility industry can comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Rule within the required three-year period while maintaining the reliability of the nation's electricity grid and protecting Americans from higher electricity prices, according to comments Exelon filed today with the EPA.
The proposed Toxics Rule provides the industry with the regulatory certainty it needs to unleash many billions of dollars in clean energy investments to modernize the nation's aging electric system. These investments have already been delayed for a decade due to a lack of regulatory certainty and will spur new electric generation, enhancements to existing generation, and development of abundant, domestic shale natural gas resources.
"Like many electric utilities, Exelon has anticipated the Toxics Rule and other environmental rules for years and made the necessary clean energy investments to prepare," said Joseph Dominguez, senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs, public policy and communications for Exelon. "The Toxics Rule will force much-needed action on the part of those few companies who are behind the curve or have done little to nothing over decades to improve or update antiquated, inefficient plants. Instead of lobbying for categorical extensions or legislative delays, those companies should start planning for compliance."
The proposed Toxics Rule allows sufficient time for electric generators to comply with EPA's emission limits, and its implementation will not jeopardize the reliability of the electric grid, as some have claimed. If there are isolated cases where individual power plants need more time to install pollution controls, those plants should only be permitted to operate at times when it is necessary to address local reliability concerns, Exelon said. This will ensure that toxic air emissions are minimized while the industry complies.
"Americans do not have to choose between clean air and affordable electricity," Dominguez said. "Every day that goes by, there is more and more evidence that the electric utility industry can comply with EPA's new air pollution rules without steep rate increases and create badly needed jobs at the same time."
In response to claims that the Toxics Rule will cause harmful rate increases, Exelon said that when the rule takes effect in 2015, electricity prices in many areas, including Exelon's service territories, will actually be lower than they were in 2010.
"The pending suite of EPA clean air rules, including the Toxics Rule, will reduce air pollution and drive the transition to a cleaner energy future in an affordable way," Dominguez said. "Exelon, for its part, is helping to lead the way by investing nearly $5 billion in previously announced clean energy projects through 2015. The regulatory certainty provided by the Toxics Rule will permit the industry to invest considerably more."
Mandated under the Clean Air Act, the Toxics Rule represents the first national limits on the amount of mercury and other toxic air pollution released from power plant smokestacks. EPA plans to issue the final rule in November 2011.