Electricity bill on the rise? Blame the EPA

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Brad Jones Contributor
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Customers of Colorado Springs’ municipal utility may suffer sticker shock January 1: Water rates are on the rise by 11.7 percent, with an extra 3.4 percent hike in electricity rates.

The increase in water cost can be partly blamed on devastating wildfires in recent years which have caused headaches with silty runoff and damage to mountain infrastructure. But the increase in electricity costs has a much more human origin: regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

So said Dave Grossman, spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities. “The electric rate increase is driven by capital investments to comply with the new, stricter EPA emission standards,” Grossman told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “The work being done at Drake Power Plant is a significant capital investment for us over the next few years.”

Policymakers and lawmakers at both the federal and state level have made running coal power plants an increasingly expensive business, as government favor has turned to natural gas, solar and wind.

While permits for new coal power plants have dried up nationwide, a significant part of the nation’s energy is generated by existing coal facilities. Retrofitting dirtier facilities to meet modern standards is expensive, and the cost is passed through to ratepayers.

Coal accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s power generation, fueled by significant deposits in the mountain west, midwest and east coast.

In recent years, natural gas has found favor with state lawmakers, pushing its largest investor-owned electric utility to shift away from coal.

EPA regulations tighten the squeeze. As previously reported by The Daily Caller News Foundation, the Obama administration’s regulatory changes regarding coal-fired plants have been blamed for rising prices nationwide.

The political impact crosses party lines, with traditionally Democratically-aligned unions facing off against environmentalists in the party.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average Colorado resident spends $1,551 per year on energy.

Despite utilities’ blaming rate prices on the EPA, federal regulators deny there is a “war on coal,” as critics allege.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy shrugged off coal industry criticism at a Christian Science Monitor event last month.

“We have very good history of 40 years indicating that technology innovates, that businesses adjust, that we can both reduce pollution and maintain the healthy economy that we are all looking for,” she said.

Colorado’s natural-gas emissions rules, passed in 2010, were intended in part to “head off” new EPA regulations on power production, which nevertheless were enacted. The law provided incentives to build gas plants instead of coal, even though coal power has historically been cheaper. At the time, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest power utility, expected that the state rules alone to increase residential rates by 4 to 6 percent.

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