Mobile, AL was the site for the Gulf Coast energy forum. Consumer Energy Alliance partnered with PACE to host the forum on the future costs of energy in the Southeast. Speakers raised concern that the U.S. is limiting its ability to generate affordable electricity if the EPA places new restrictions on coal-based power plants. 

Most companies are still unpacking the contents of the 645-page proposal, but pledges to litigate have already been made. Attorney General Luther Strange said he was considering legal action to protect the state’s 16,000 coal-related jobs.

At least until next year or the earliest lawsuit is filed, power companies must consider ways to limit coal usage, the cheapest form of energy.

At the forum Thursday, Jim Compton, chief executive of the South Mississippi Electric Power Association, said the regulations push companies toward more natural gas usage — which is a mistake in his view.

“The (EPA) rule — I’m afraid — wIll bring us to a situation where we will be dependent on one source of generation that will be natural gas,” Compton said. Natural gas exploration has been a boon for the U.S.

The executives used the opportunity to envision what would happen if another wave of Polar Vortex-like cold creeped down into the deep South again. On Jan. 7, energy use climbed when the below-freezing temperatures swept across most of the country.