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LMRE submits $4,246 letters to EPA

Ohio electric cooperatives are calling for the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) to withdraw its "foolhardy endeavor" to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants and to develop rules that balance affordability and reliability.

The EPA comment period concluded Monday, Dec. 1, with cooperatives nationwide collecting more than 1.1 million comments in opposition to the agency's proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. Ohio submitted 120,000 comments through and websites.

Locally, Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative members submitted 2,246 comments to the EPA through network, the second highest total among Ohio's cooperatives.

Tony Ahern, president and CEO of Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives and Buckeye Power, said, "More than 120,000 electric co-op members and supporters in Ohio joined in this effort by sending a comment to the EPA, urging the agency to abandon its foolhardy endeavor to impose these regulations to the detriment of the American consumer. "Buckeye Power is the generation and transmission cooperative that supplies wholesale power to LMRE and the 24 electric cooperatives in Ohio.

"Our analysis find the regulation would cost the average Ohio electric co-op member $40 to $50 more per month while providing little or no environmental benefit and putting the nation's electric grid at risk," Ahern said.

At LMRE, through the first nine months of 2014, the average monthly residential bill was $156. Full implementation of these regulations would push rates up to 25 to 30 percent, meaning average monthly bills would approach $200.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the trade association for electric cooperatives, echoes the statements of Ahern and Buckeye Power.

"This proposed rule is illegal, imprudent and impossible to implement," according to a statement by NRECA. "The EPA's aggressive approach to interpreting the statute, complete inconsistency with its own long-standing regulations, and misinformed statements and Pollyannaish judgments about the electricity sector and what the emission reductions sources in that sector can actually achieve, place the rule beyond salvage."

"It is complex, it is costly and it is a staggering overreach of authority," NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson said in a Dec. 2 telephone news conference. "That's why NRECA joins with co-op advocates who submitted more than 1.1 million grassroots comments to EPA asking for the withdraw of these proposals on new and existing power plants. We stand ready to work with the EPA and others to create policies promoting an 'all of the above approach' that are environmentally and economically responsible."

"The EPA proposal asks consumers to pay more for energy and use less of it," Emerson said. "This approach raises serious consequences for millions of Americans in rural, high-cost or low-income areas. Affordable, reliable energy is the lifeblood of every household, every business and every community in the country, so the member-owners of electric cooperatives view this plan with obvious concern."

"At the heart of things, we oppose the EPA regulations because they are going to raise electric rates, threaten reliability and are illegal under the Clean Air Act," Emerson said.

"Reliable electricity is essential to the economic well-being of our nation," she continued. "Analysis by many of the nation's watchdogs who actually focus on electric grid reliability indicate the proposal could raise serious reliability issues. Reducing reliability and increasing costs has this proposal unfairly affecting co-op members the hardest."

LMRE General Manager Markus Bryant reported in an April 2014 Country Living magazine column that during the January 2014 polar vortex, the electric grid in a 13-state region that includes Ohio was in a critical stage. Buckeye Power's two power plants near Steubenville each produce about 600 megawatts to serve Ohio's 390,000 electric cooperative consumers. Supply was so tight that if one similar-sized coal plant had gone off-line in this 12-state region during the polar vortex, rolling blackouts would have been ordered to keep the region's electric grid from shutting down.

By the end of 2015, a total of 13,000 megawatts of electricity from coal-fired generation plants will be lost, as these plants are scheduled to be shut down in this region. American Electric Power reported 89 percent of its coal-fired power capacity that is scheduled to be closed was operating during the polar vortex.

Bryant said, "Our top priorities are keeping service reliable and bills affordable for our members. Unfortunately, the EPA continues its 'magical thinking' and refuses to consider the real-world impact this latest proposal will have on the budgets of families and businesses across America and in grid reliability.

"That's why ten of thousands of Ohio co-op members and supporters spoke out and told the EPA they couldn't afford another all-pain-no-gain government regulations. It's possible to balance affordability and environmental stewardship, but not under these latest rules."

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