Coal Tattoo

Power company president defends climate change bill


Wow … A business leader in Appalachia stepping up to defend — no, praise —  the climate change bill that has passed the House of Representatives and is pending in the U.S. Senate.


That’s what happened in Sunday’s Gazette-Mail, with the op-ed commentary by Michael G. Morris, president of American Electric Power. If you missed it, here’s the entire piece:

The arguments for and against climate action haven’t abated with the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 by the U.S. House of Representatives. Both sides are sharpening their messages in preparation for Senate action on the issue.

The public hears the rhetoric and must weigh the choices. Cleaner energy? That’s good. Higher energy costs? That’s bad.

But a key fact that is critical for everyone to understand has been lost in the debate. One way or another, there will be climate action.

If climate change legislation dies in Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA has that authority if the agency concludes that CO2 qualifies as an endangerment issue. EPA has provided notice that it is pursuing the development of its endangerment finding.

Climate action by EPA isn’t equivalent to climate action by Congress and, in our view, is in no one’s best interests.

For instance, members of the U.S. House of Representatives spent countless hours debating legislation that, if crafted correctly, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a cleaner energy supply. Of equal importance, steps were taken to preserve jobs for American workers by ensuring that international trade counterparts are taking comparable actions. House members also included measures to minimize the cost impact on consumers and to protect the economy by allocating free credits to the utilities for the benefit of their customers.

Action by the EPA would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, potentially, create a cleaner energy supply. But that’s the end to the comparability. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA actions must be taken on a source-by-source or sector-by-sector basis, with little or no consideration of impacts on employment, consumer costs or the economy, and would impose permitting requirements for the first time on hundreds of thousands of additional facilities.

So the choice is simple:

  • A comprehensive legislative approach that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while introducing measures to address jobs, costs and the economy; or
  • Single-focus regulation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions without regard to jobs, costs and the economy.
  • There are no other options.

    American Electric Power supported the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. No legislation is perfect – particularly one that seeks to overhaul the way our nation uses energy – but we believe this climate bill will work and it represents the best of the available options.

    There are constructive improvements that the Senate should make to this legislation. For instance, since the costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions initially will be concentrated on customers of electric utilities, the House version of this legislation appropriately provides emission allowances free to the utilities for the benefit of their customers. Allocating, rather than auctioning, emission allowances will substantially reduce electricity cost increases, while still achieving the same environmental benefits. We encourage the Senate to expand the percentage of allowances given to the electric sector and provide the free allowances over a longer period of time. As free allowances are eliminated, the revenue raised from auctioning allowances should be reinvested to accelerate development and deployment of new clean-energy technologies.

    For coal-reliant states, investment in clean-energy technologies, including carbon capture and storage, will support continued use of America’s most abundant energy source. Preserving coal for electricity production while expanding other available energy sources reduces dependence on foreign fuels and ensures a reliable supply of electricity to power the American economy. Renewable energy and energy efficiency also need to play a growing role, and the House legislation appropriately emphasizes both. The Senate should add federal siting authority for new transmission lines to support significant expansion of wind and other renewables as well as strengthen and improve the efficiency and reliability of our nation’s aging electric grid.

    The start date of the legislation should be moved forward from 2012 to a later year to allow sufficient time for regulations to be developed by EPA under parameters established by the legislation and to help reduce some of the up-front costs. Again, American consumers and companies benefit.

    Lastly, there are concerns over the international trade provisions built into Waxman-Markey to address the global nature of climate change. International trade provisions must be maintained and strengthened in the Senate to ensure that U.S. action becomes part of a meaningful global solution to this problem. It is global warming, not U.S. warming.

    Climate action is inevitable. The only choice is whether to encourage the Senate to pass comprehensive, well-crafted climate legislation or to wait for the EPA to enact regulations under the Clean Air Act.

    We’re pulling for the Senate.