July Manager's Message
On May 2-4, 2011, two of Renville-Sibley’s management staff, one Renville-Sibley director and the Cooperative attorney attended the NRECA Washington, D.C. Rally where we met with the Minnesota delegation to voice our concerns or support of proposed legislation. Renville-Sibley’s First District Director David Tomes, Energy Services Manager Brian Jeremiason, Cooperative Attorney Charles Hunt and I spent three days in Washington D.C. talking to our elected officials about issues related to providing affordable and reliable electricity to each of our members.
Once such concern is related to Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR’s) which are materials produced when coal is burned to produce electricity. When properly managed, CCR’s offer environmental and economic benefits without harm to public health and safety. Over the years, CCR’s have been incorporated into productive and beneficial applications, such as roof shingles, wallboard, asphalt and brick additives. As an example, fly ash (which is a part of CCR’s) plays a critical role in highway construction because it is cost-effectively and safely increases concrete durability. In fact, the concrete used in the construction of the 35W bridge replacement contained fly ash from Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station which is located in North Dakota. The volume of CCR’s being recycled and put to beneficial use has increased steadily through time and now constitutes about 45% of all CCR’s produced, which significantly reduces the need for raw materials.
Unfortunately, the environmental success story associated with CCR’s could be completely reversed by actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On June 21st, 2010, EPA proposed federal regulations governing the disposal of CCR’s under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Although several options were cited, the concerning one would take a hazardous approach to CCR’s that would create a comprehensive program of federally enforceable requirements for waste management and disposal. If EPA would indeed classify CCR’s as hazardous materials, many industries, in order to obtain essential building materials, would use new natural resources and additional energy for processing them, rather than recycling the CCR waste.
We talked to Minnesota legislators (Senators Klobuchar and Franken, Congresswoman Bachmann, Congressmen Peterson, Walz and Paulson) asking for their support of a continued non-hazardous regulation of CCR’s to protect the environment and ensure the safety of disposal impoundment structures. We told them we are willing to work with EPA to enhance the agency’s existing authority under a non-hazardous program that will ensure a consistent level of protection in all states. We believe that regulations of CCR’s under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste rules is not warranted. We told them that regulatory treatment of CCR’s as hazardous waste will create significant costs at all coal-based generation facilities like Antelope Valley, Leland Olds and Laramie River (Basin Electric’s coal generation resources).
In some cases, these costs could be sufficiently high enough to render some units uneconomic to operate, with plant closures the only viable option. Some experts project the utility industry would face billions of dollars of increased costs and as much as 18% of current coal generating capacity would be at risk of closure. In fact, regulation of coal ash as hazardous could present an insurmountable hurdle to compliance, making it impossible to operate a coal-based power plant in the U.S. and comply with the new hazardous waste regulations. We told our legislators that our member/consumers deserve policies that further the goals of reliable and affordable electricity not ones that drive up the cost without any significant benefit.