Memo to Sen. Shaheen: You Can’t Have it Both Ways
New Hampshire Senior Sen. Jeanne Shaheen joined fellow New England Sens. Blumenthal, Kerry, and Brown in calling for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to address persistent unreliability of the region’s power grid that has left hundreds of thousands without power in the midst of brutal winter weather.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D) and Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts asked the committee to hold an oversight hearing to determine whether regulatory fixes are needed to ensure the grid is stable and prevent such massive outages.
The storms left more than 2 million utility customers without power, including 315,000 in New Hampshire, 830,000 in Connecticut and 672,000 in Massachusetts, they said.
“In New Hampshire alone, the storm caused the loss of 91 main circuits and three 115 kv lines for Public Service of New Hampshire, the largest number in the company’s history,” the senators said in their letter yesterday. “In Connecticut, the storm caused the outage of 29 115 kv lines and three 345 kv lines. In addition to last month’s snowstorm, hundreds of thousands of customers have been without power in our states at various points over the past two years following extreme weather events such as Hurricane Irene.”
The power outages have been significant and sustained during the past two years with “unacceptable regularity” and Congress needs to ensure that electric grid reliability standards are sufficient to protect the public and the economy, they said.
Well that’s no good. Given the circumstances, one would think that the senators would want to be sure to prevent any actions that could further threaten grid reliability, right?
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Last week FERC [Federal Electric Reliability Commission] convened a conference on the wave of new Environmental Protection Agency rules that are designed to force dozens of coal-fired power plants to shut down. The meeting barely fulfilled the commission’s legal obligations, but despite warnings from expert after expert, including some of its own, the FERC Commissioners refuse to do anything about this looming threat to electric reliability.
The latest body to sound the EPA alarm is the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which last Tuesday released its exhaustive annual 10-year projections. “Environmental regulations are shown to be the number one risk to reliability over the next one to five years,” the report explains…
…The threat is that the EPA is triggering what NERC calls “an unprecedented resource-mix change,” with utilities switching to natural gas from coal. For the first time in U.S. history, net coal capacity is in decline. On top of the 38 gigawatts of generation that is already being run below normal levels or slated for early retirement, NERC predicts another 36 to 59 gigawatts will come offline by 2018, depending on the “scope and timing” of EPA demands. That could mean nearly a quarter of all coal-fired capacity.
According to the report, “the nation’s power grid will be stressed in ways never before experienced” and reliability depends on building new power plants to cover the losses. But the electric industry has only three years to comply under one EPA regulation known as the utility rule that is meant to target mercury and is due to be finalized soon, while many other destructive rules are in the works.
So let’s get this straight. As Shaheen pushes for the Senate to investigate existing reliability issues that put their constituents in danger, the Obama EPA is pushing through regulations that will further threaten grid reliability. Perhaps if Shaheen truly wants to help New Hampshire, she will stand up to the administration she has supported and tell them to quit prioritizing an ideologically-driven regulatory agenda over the reliability of our power grid and safety of our citizens.