Georgia Power asked state regulators for permission to shut down 15 power plants yesterday, claiming new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) make the plants too expensive to run.
The 15 coal-, oil- and natural gas-fired power plants currently produce 2,061 megawatts (MW) for Georgia energy consumers. Georgia Power plans to close 11 of the plants on the exact day the EPA’s new mercury regulations are set to take effect, April 16, 2015. Georgia Power will seek waivers from the EPA to keep four of the other plants open for a single year, and then shut those down too on April 16, 2016. It is unclear how the Georgia energy sector will make the 2 gigawatts up.
The EPA claims its new mercury regulation will produce $140 billion in annual benefits, but only $6 million of the benefits come from actual mercury reductions. According to Dr. Anne Smith, Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting’s Global Environment Group, effectively all of the EPA’s estimated benefits come from “coincidental reductions” of fine particulate matter. But fine particulate matter is already regulated by a separate section of the Clean Air Act.
The plant closures will cause at least 480 fewer power plant jobs and higher electricity rates for all Georgia energy consumers.