The federal Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan - part of President Barack Obama's idea to slow global warming - is bad policy.
That bad policy becomes potentially disastrous to every single person in Chautauqua County when combined with New York state's refusal to allow hydraulic fracturing.
The Clean Power Plan includes even more strict emissions limits on coal-fired power plants than current law that are pushing power producers to the next-best thing - natural gas. That is, in fact, what has largely happened at the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities with its conversions of boilers from coal to natural gas and what will happen at NRG in Dunkirk now that the state Public Service Commission has approved a repowering plan for the plant.
States have until June 30, 2016, to devise plans to meet the EPA's targets and reduce the state's average emissions per megawatt hour of electricity. The next two years should be interesting in light of New York's roughly seven-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. That stalemate doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon, by the way, if the state Assembly's recently passed three-year moratorium for further study is any indication; while unlikely to be approved the state Senate, the Assembly's moratorium shows Democrats are more than willing to continue their stall tactics.
New York's death-by-delay tactics on hydraulic fracturing are especially costly because the state is falling behind building the infrastructure needed to properly get natural gas to the areas where it is most needed. Phil Van Horne, president and chief executive officer of BlueRock Energy, told MarketWatch, a publication of the Wall Street Journal, in a June 13 article that New York's natural gas pipeline is inadequate to handle additional natural gas uses and cites the ongoing Keystone XL pipeline debacle as proof "we do not have the public or political will to construct pipeline capacity in this country (and) without new pipeline construction, replacement of coal by natural gas is not going to be a reliable solution."
Such lollygagging by governors David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo, the state Legislature and the state Department of Environmental Conservation will come at a price to every New York state resident, but particularly to Chautauqua County. According to 2012 American Factfinder community facts, 20.6 percent of Chautauqua County's 54,950 households earn less than $25,000 a year. That percentage skyrockets to 52.8 percent when considering only the county's 20,608 non-family households - or, basically, the very people who can least afford to see electricity and heating prices increase. We also note the likely hardship for the 16.6 percent of county residents over the age of 65.
Page 136 of the EPA's analysis of the proposed regulations project state agency officials project an increase in electricity prices of between 5.9 and 6.5 percent when the new regulations go into effect in 2020. By 2030, the projected electricity price increases are projected to be between 2.7 and 3.1 percent.
At least President Obama and our fearless state leadership have given us six years to get ready to write bigger checks for home heating and electricity.
It was literally the least they could do.