America’s clean energy future must include low rates and reliable power.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new regulations on power plants. These regulations will increase the cost of electricity and reduce the reliability of energy produced by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Tell the EPA and TVA that there must be a better way. Send your message at takeactionTN.com.

Tennessee’s rural electric cooperatives are unique. We are not-for-profit, member-owned, member-governed utilities that provide electricity to more than 1.1 million homes and business in rural and suburban Tennessee. Our responsibility – as directed by our consumer-owners — is to provide our consumers and our communities with safe, reliable, and affordable power.

Recently proposed EPA regulations would require our power supplier, TVA, to make significant changes in the resources they use to generate energy. The EPA’s proposal will increase power costs, jeopardize reliability, and threaten thousands of American jobs without any significant impact on global CO2 emissions or climate change. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are asking the EPA to reconsider their approach and make certain that affordable, reliable power is a part of America’s clean energy future.


Increased cost

The EPA’s proposal calls for a seismic shift in the way that electricity is generated and used. In order to meet the EPA’s guidelines, coal fired power plants will be shut down, demand for natural gas will surge, new infrastructure will need to be constructed and American families will have to make significant financial investments to reduce their energy use. American families and businesses will bear all of the costs these changes entail.

Consumers, who are already on the hook for investments in coal plants built and upgraded to meet their needs, will also have to pay more for the resources required to replace that coal capacity: new gas generation, gas pipelines, and gas storage capacity; new renewable generation and the transmission it requires; and hundreds of billions of dollars in new energy efficiency investments.

As a cooperative, all of these costs will necessarily have to be borne by our members, many of whom cannot afford any increases in their cost of energy. The cost of electricity directly impacts the quality of life in the communities served by electric cooperatives. Increased costs may slow economic growth, reduce job opportunities and force families to make tough budget choices.  For our most vulnerable members, an increase in the cost of electricity could force families to choose between filling up the car and keeping the lights on.


Reduced reliability

Families and businesses expect their phones to charge and the lights to come on when needed.  The EPA’s proposal could jeopardize that reliability. By reducing the overall amount of dependable base load power generation available, the EPA is removing a vital safety net that prevents rolling blackouts at times of peak use. The very coal units that could be shut down by this rule were needed to keep the lights on during the Polar Vortex this year.

The proposed rule adopts an “all-but-one strategy” abandoning the safety of an all-of-the-above strategy.  A true all-of-the-above fuel strategy permits utilities to build and operate a portfolio of resources that ensures that American families aren’t left in the dark. Once power plants are shuttered, there’s no magic switch to flip and turn them back on in times of need.


Threat to American Jobs

Thousands of Americans work directly in coal-fired power plants and coal mines in order to provide cost-effective electricity to much of the nation.  Thousands more play vital support roles as they build the machinery and equipment that enables the safe production and reliable operation of coal generated electricity.  Thousands more good jobs in service and retail businesses are supported indirectly in rural communities by those industries and the jobs they provide.

By nearly eliminating coal from the generation mix, thousands of American jobs and the welfare of entire communities are on the line because of the EPA’s proposed regulations.  American energy is one of the main drivers of our economy, and our economy simply can’t afford to add thousands of Americans to the unemployment list.

As power plants begin to close, they could leave empty towns in their wake.


Clean Air and Clean Water: Cooperatives are Leading by Example

Electric cooperatives support the development of cost-effective renewable energy and efficiency and are leading by example. In fact, since 2009, electric cooperatives have doubled their renewable energy capacity, and have made long-term investments in energy efficiency and in wind, solar and hydro energy production.

After all, we live in the communities we serve. We play with our kids in the same parks. We breathe the same air and drink the same water.

But we also care deeply about affordable electricity. Most importantly, that’s what our members care about. So we work every day to provide affordable and reliable electricity to all we serve.

Fortunately, support for the environment and a true all-of-the-above energy policy are not mutually exclusive.  Cooperatives work hard to build portfolios of generation resources that meet all of the needs of their members including safety, reliability, affordability, and environmental sustainability. Unfortunately, this proposal slams the door on an all-of-the-above strategy, hand-picking winners and losers in the pursuit of CO2 reductions that represent such a small portion of world CO2 emissions that they will likely have statistically irrelevant long-term impacts on climate change.

Basically, we are not anti-environment or pro-coal, just pro low rates and reliable power. Low rates and reliable power must be included in any environmental action or it will not be sustainable – certain to be reversed by the next administration. By including rates and reliability into the discussion, we are promoting lasting action that can make a real difference for both families and the environment.


Regulatory Overreach

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association do not believe the EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. At most, 111(d) may permit the EPA to provide guidance to the states on how to determine the best system of emissions reductions at each power plant.  Yet, as drafted, the proposal purports to require sweeping changes to the electric utility industry, the resources dispatched by wholesale electric markets, the new generation resources to be brought on line over the next 15 years, and even the amount of power used by end-use consumers.

The proposal’s definition “best system of emissions reductions” would unjustifiably grant the EPA near limitless authority to regulate the entire economy and the lifestyles of every consumer in the country.


What can you do?

Visit takeactionTN.com to send your message to the EPA and to TVA. Tell them that affordable and reliable energy is important to your family, and there must be a better way.

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