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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Lawmakers worry about grid reliability as new regulations near -- By Zack Colman, The Washington Examiner

Photo - Pipeline capacity is lacking in the United States to meet the influx of new gas-fired generation, and utilities will often need to secure a spot a day ahead of time if they know they will need extra supply. Lawmakers in both chambers are raising alarms about a January cold snap that brought parts of the Mid-Atlantic perilously close to a major blackout.

The polar vortex that swept through the country early last month pushed the PJM Interconnection, a regulatory entity that covers a swath of the Midwest, Appalachia and the Mid-Atlantic, to the brink of collapse. Some electric utilities and lawmakers argue that a slate of scheduled retirements of coal-fired power plants next summer to comply with a new federal rule would lead to a breakdown in a future extreme weather event.

"When I heard last night how critically close it was to the whole system coming down -- I don't think anyone realizes how critical this is. I mean, do you imagine how many people would have died? It's just unbelievable," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told reporters this week at an event in Washington. "We would have lost a lot of people."

At issue is an Environmental Protection Agency rule that tightens emissions standards for sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter that have been known to cause heart and respiratory damage. The rule goes into effect in mid-April 2015, and would force the shutdown of a number of older, dirtier "peaking" plants that utilities fire up when demand is especially high.

But American Electric Power, the nation's most coal-dependent utility, said that 89 percent of its generators scheduled for shutdown beginning in May 2015 were running to keep the lights on during the early January cold snap.

That's caught the attention of Republicans and Democrats in both chambers.

Ed Whitfield is pictured. | AP PhotoRep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, told the Washington Examiner that his panel is ramping up discussions that could lead to a number of hearings on the subject.

"I think that it gives us all pause to think about President Obama's rush to renewable energy and making it more difficult to utilize coal. I think that this is another reason that we need to give more thought to it," he said in an interview.

"We've been yelling at the rooftop trying to bring this to the attention of people. But frequently, until you have an emergency people aren't paying attention to it," he added.

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