TN Legislature may force AG to fight EPA on new emissions rules


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper remains noncommittal on whether he’ll fight the EPA over new regulations handed down to the states that direct them to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by an average of 30 percent.

Cooper’s spokeswoman Sharon Curtis-Flair told Tennessee Watchdog Tuesday that Cooper plans to review the regulations as they develop.

Attorneys general in Texas and Oklahoma have already vowed to fight the regulations.

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper

One member of Tennessee’s General Assembly, Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said he finds the regulations so disturbing he wants the Legislature to order Cooper to take action against the EPA on behalf of all Tennesseans.

“If you want to see your electricity bills go up by a bare-bones minimum of $30 a month, or closer to $60-$70 a month, this affects how much groceries you have and how you raise and clothe your family,” Casada told Tennessee Watchdog Tuesday.

“Yes, it’s really that dramatic.”

In Tennessee, the EPA regulations would only seem to affect the Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity to 9 million people in seven southeastern states, including most of Tennessee’s 95 counties, according to its website.

The TVA is a corporation owned by the U.S. government and operates six coal-fired power plants in Allen, Bull Run, Cumberland, Gallatin, Johnsonville and Kingston.

In a statement, TVA officials said they’ve already reduced carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels, per the mandate of the new EPA rules.

“TVA has already reached that target system-wide and expects to exceed it,” according to the statement, which said TVA’s carbon emissions will be about one-half what they were in 1995.

But the TVA’s statement said nothing about the impact on jobs or higher electricity rates.

“We still don’t know what the impact will be as far as electricity prices for folks who receive TVA electricity,” TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield told Tennessee Watchdog.

“These folks have been paying for some time for improvements in reducing clean air emissions because we’ve added five natural gas plants since 2007, so that’s already been built into the rates.”

So the new EPA regulations likely mean higher electricity prices then?

“Well, somewhat higher. Nobody lowers rates, it seems, unless it’s affected by fuel costs, which are something we can’t control,” Mansfield said.

Mansfield said he and other TVA officials prefer to withhold comment on higher rates until they learn more.

Dave Smith, spokesman for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, referred Tennessee Watchdog to the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation for comment on how the state will respond to the regulations.

TDEC spokeswoman Kelly Brockman said her agency will review the rules to fully understand their implications for Tennessee.

Scott Banbury, spokesman for the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club, said fears the regulations will kill jobs are unwarranted.

State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin

“We hope the forces opposed to it will come to understand it will not have an adverse effect on the economy, but instead a positive one as we move into alternative energy technologies,” Banbury said. “It’s better to invest now in technologies that will keep the price of energy fixed or lower. That will keep us competitive in the long run.”

Casada disagrees.

“Despite whatever the TVA says, there will be a dramatic effect on utility bills and jobs, and the Obama administration is hurting the working people of this state.”

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