On Wednesday in Atlanta, the Environmental Protection Agency held one of their eleven planned public listening sessions meant to gather feedback from stakeholders and the general public as they work to draft carbon reduction regulations on existing power plants.

CEA Southeast Executive Director Adam Waldeck was on hand to raise questions about potential consumer impacts and grid reliability, and the full statement is below:

My name is Adam Waldeck, and I serve as the Executive Director of the Southeastern chapter of Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), covering Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. CEA is a nationwide trade association made up of both energy consumers and producers working to advance an all-of-the-above energy policy that will lower energy costs for every American.

Historically, the Southeast has had the most affordable and reliable power in the country, which has served as a magnet for jobs and economic development. This is of particular importance for middle and lower-income Americans, because every dollar spent on energy is a dollar not being put towards savings, groceries, or next year’s family vacation.

At a time when electricity consumption is projected to grow, it is important that all available energy resources remain available to help avoid supply disruptions or unnecessary price increases.  With America’s energy technology and diversity of resources, we are now in a time of energy abundance, meaning downward pressure on prices, new job creation in industries that rely on safe, affordable energy, and the hope of long-term economic growth.

These new rules are designed to require coal-fired power plants to significantly reduce their carbon emissions, raising concerns that directly impact those energy prices, new jobs and overall economic wellbeing. Under the best case scenario, the regulations could mean that facilities will face the difficult choice to either upgrade or shut down. If the regulations are set a level that is unachievable, upgrading will not be an option. Both options mean higher electricity prices for consumers in Georgia and the broader Southeast.

To understand the real-life ramifications of power facilities closing quickly or unexpectedly, one needs only to look to the West. When the San Onofre nuclear facility in southern California retired prematurely, electricity prices rose 59% and California regulators were left scrambling to bring online additional sources of electricity to avert rolling brownouts.

As EPA considers how to move forward with regulations governing GHG emissions from existing units, we urge the Agency to keep electricity consumers in mind and not set the standards in a manner that will force the premature shutdown of coal-fired units – which will drive up electricity costs and reduce grid reliability. We also believe that EPA ought to give the states maximum flexibility to develop and implement plans that fit their unique circumstances. Such flexibility is particularly critical to states including Georgia where coal-fired power accounts for a significant percentage of electricity generation.

If these regulations hamper our ability to utilize American coal, we must also consider how electric utilities will fill the gap and provide affordable, reliable power utilizing non-coal feedstocks, such as natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar – all of which face their own unique challenges.

This debate should not just be about “clean energy” versus “dirty energy,” but about affordable, reliable energy versus unreliable and expensive energy.  As a nation, we should strive to have more energy, not presenting false choices that pit one energy resource against another.   CEA hopes EPA considers deeply the potential economic impacts on consumers across Georgia and the broader region.