The Leaflet: The Fight Against the Premature Closure of U.S. Power Plants

Published February 16, 2018

Heartland Institute Policy Analyst Tim Benson recently authored a Research & Commentary about the premature shutdown of coal-fired power plants now occurring across the country. These plants are closing their doors because of coordinated efforts by environmentalists and allied politicians to wean America off this allegedly “dirty” energy source.

In the wake of these efforts, organizations committed to helping America reestablish its energy dominance have formed a coalition to save coal plants from premature retirement. The coalition’s goal is simple: to preserve the good jobs, high savings, and plentiful energy coal plants generate.

The Heartland Institute is a proud member of the movement to keep well-functioning coal plants operating. One way Heartland is fighting to save existing coal-fired plants is by creating and distributing policy studies on this important issue. Heartland recently sent its Policy Study titled “How The Premature Retirement of Coal-Fired Power Plants Affects Energy Reliability, Affordability” to state lawmakers and public utility commissioners in six states where coal-fired plants are at risk of closing in the near future: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

In his analysis of the study, Benson wrote:

“[Study authors] Orr and Palmer note more than 250 coal-fired plants have been closed in the United States since 2010, taking offline 34,000 megawatts (MW) of power generation capacity. Another 18,400 MW are scheduled to go offline by 2028. This 52,400 MW of retired capacity is enough to power 42.5 million homes, ‘equivalent to every household in California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas combined.’

While some of these closings resulted from the increased competition created by the hydraulic fracturing revolution, which has provided Americans with an abundance of natural gas, many were caused by burdensome federal regulations, renewable mandates, and subsidies that artificially disrupt the energy market and disadvantage coal.

Orr and Palmer also point readers to the failures of California’s energy policies. California has a costly cap-and-trade program and a renewables mandate requiring utility companies to produce half their energy from ‘clean’ sources by 2030. Because of these and other policies, more than 34,000 MW of coal capacity was removed from the Golden State’s resource portfolio in the decade from 2006­ to 2016.”

In addition to publishing and distributing its research and analyses, Heartland also formally submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a 68-page public comment in support of EPA’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Trump’s EPA contends CPP, which restricts carbon-dioxide emissions and effectively forces existing power plants to shift from fossil-fuel generation to renewable generation, exceeds its legal authority under the Clean Air Act.

State legislators should not imitate the costly California model or prematurely retire their coal power plants. Instead, they should support pro-energy policies, such as repealing renewable power mandates on public utilities—a move made by West Virginia in 2015—or halting the implementation of CPP standards—an important policy decision made in Florida, Indiana, and Michigan, among many others.


What We’re Working On

Health Care
Virginia Should Embrace Full Certificate of Public Need Repeal
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines certificate of need (CON) reform in Virginia. Glans says a full repeal of the state’s CON law should be pursued, rather than a piecemeal approach. “Virginia should consider reforming the state’s CON program, thereby ending these burdensome regulations across the state for all medical facilities and services. Allowing CON laws to persist increases the cost of health care while limiting access and benefitting those with political connections,” Glans wrote.                                                             

Budget & Tax
Tennessee Looks to REIN in Cost of State Regulations
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines a bill in Tennessee that would incorporate REINS Act-style reforms to the state’s regulatory system. “There is no bill better suited for cutting back the scope and power of government than a REINS Act-style bill. It gives legislators the authority to limit the power of unelected bureaucrats while leaving agencies appropriate flexibility to implement new regulations. It is important to remember the REINS Act does not prevent agencies from making new regulations; it is designed to ensure that new rules with a major impact on the economy face scrutiny by elected officials,” wrote Glans.

Education Savings Grants Would Benefit Iowa Children
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about legislation in Iowa that would establish an education savings grant program, a type of education savings account (ESA) model. If approved, the grants would be available to all public school students in the Hawkeye State, beginning with the 2019–20 school year. The ESAs could be used to pay for tuition and fees at private and parochial schools, textbooks and curriculum, online learning programs, tutoring services, and educational therapies. All leftover funds could be rolled over for use in the following school year and used to pay tuition costs for higher education.

Energy & Environment
Kentucky Should Reform Net Metering
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a proposal in Kentucky that would significantly reform the state’s net-metering program. Under current Kentucky law, Benson writes, households with their own electricity generation source, such as a solar panel, can sell the excess, unused electricity they generate back to their utility company’s grid. The utility company can then re-sell this electricity to other customers. Net metering is the billing mechanism that measures this excess electricity. Under current law, excess electricity is sold back at the retail-price rate. The proposal would grandfather in current solar users in the Bluegrass State at the retail rate until 2043, but anyone installing a solar system after July 15, 2018, would be reimbursed at the wholesale-priced rate for electricity. The current retail-price rate for electricity in Kentucky is about 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour, while the wholesale rate is around 3 cents per kilowatt hour.

From Our Free-Market Friends
Nebraska’s Hidden Tax: Red Tape Regulation Harming Economic Growth
Sarah Curry, policy director at the Platte Institute, just released a report about the burdensome regulation and licensing requirements that Nebraska imposes on its citizens. Curry contends these costly requirements are effectively taxes that limit entrepreneurship and artificially increase the cost of goods and services. According to the Mercatus Center, Nebraska’s administrative code contains about 7.2 million words and contains 100,627 restrictions—more than other states with a similar population size and demographics. The state’s Department Of Health And Human Services is the main culprit of issuing restrictions; it created more than 37,000 such requirements in 2017 alone.


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