The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Congressman Smith meets with RMU on new EPA regulations

  • Eighth Congressional District Rep. Jason Smith met with Rolla Municipal Utilities (RMU) officials Monday in regards to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed greenhouse gas standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants.
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  • Eighth Congressional District Rep. Jason Smith met with Rolla Municipal Utilities (RMU) officials Monday in regards to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed greenhouse gas standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants.
    "I am in my district meeting with electric co-ops, different municipal utilities and factories just because of these new EPA rules that were filed on Sept. 20. They haven't really gotten a lot of attention yet due in part to the government shutdown," said Smith.
    "I am hoping that these meetings will bring more attention to the rules and how drastic they will affect everyone," said Smith. "These greenhouse-gas rules, if implemented, will make it extremely difficult and cost prohibitive for coal technology and so stringent that they would stop the development of any new coal power plants."
    Attending the morning roundtable discussion were RMU General Manager Rodney Bourne; Tom Parker, operations manager, and board president Nick Barrack.
    Bourne noted that 70 percent to 80 percent of RMU's electricity is coal-based. Bourne said he is concerned that the proposed regulations would cause a utility rate increase for area customers.
    "Every regulation or decision in Washington affects everyone," said Bourne. "Seven and a half percent of our customers pay their utility bill late. That tells me that they are making personal decisions on what is a priority or most important in their lives.
    "Is it groceries first, housing or the utility bill? These are the people that are ill equipped to pay for these new regulations," Bourne said. "We have to recognized that there is a segment of our population that just cannot afford this stuff."
    Much of the hour-long discussion center around government regulations in general,
    Smith agreed.
    "This is why these proposals are my concern. The reason that Missouri is one of the highest manufacturing states is because we are competing with the East and West Coasts on our utility rates," Smith said. "When these proposals come forward and increase our utility rates we no longer have that competitive advantage. It would move manufacturing out of our country."
    Specifically, Smith cited Noranda, an aluminum smelter plant in New Madrid. According to Smith, an estimated 1,100 jobs would be lost if utility rates went up.
    The congressman had two ideas to reform over-regulations.
    "Where I see a huge problem on what is going on in Washington is that these regulations are being created by laws that were passed four decades ago. Under the Clean Air Act is where they are getting the authority to promulgate these (proposed) rules," Smith said.
    His idea is that these laws need to reflect the current times. Congress needs to ask for approval again on these older laws.
    He also suggested that money needs to be appropriated. Since 2009, Congress hasn't appropriated funds. This has allowed the administration to give a blank check to allocate money where they see fit.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Let's say $300 billion is allocated to the EPA. That $300 billion can be spent however the administration decides it to because we do not have appropriations," Smith explained.
    All those in attendance agreed that government accountability is key.
    Bourne said that unnecessary regulations have touched RMU. In 2000, new generators were installed around town to cover a power outage.
    In 2010, an EPA regulation said that catalytic convertors had to be installed on these generators. It cost RMU $600,000 to upgrade the city's 17 generators.
    It was Bourne's understanding that this EPA regulation came about because of a turkey farm on the East Coast where these generators ran 24 hours a day to support an older power grid system.
    "To me this is a classic case of where a small, isolated problem is solved by creating a one size fits all rule. It caused us to spend $600,000 needlessly for emissions on machines that don't run that much," Bourne said.
    Smith along with all of the Missouri congressional delegation have sent letters to the EPA asking for these regulations be rescinded. The comment period is going on now for the regulations need as many people as possible to push back the rules.
    Smith was in town for his first district work week since August due to the government shutdown. He has similar meetings scheduled with groups who will be affected by these new regulations throughout his district, which covers all or parts of 30 counties in southeastern Missouri.
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