New EPA regs trigger Atlanta showdown

ATLANTA -- President Obama proposed new pollution regulations target coal-burning power plants like Plant Scherer near Macon. Enivronmentalists describe Scherer as the dirtiest plant in America -- emitting 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012. The new regulations would rein in that pollution. But critics like Tim Echols say it would do more than that.

"I think we'll see about a fifteen percent increase in our power bills if this happens," Echols said, "because we're going to have to strand assets that we've spent about five billion dollars on in improving over the last decade."

Echols says it would force utilities to shut down some coal power prematurely.

Tuesday, advocates for and against the Obama administration's EPA regulations are expected to jam a public hearing in Atlanta. It's an issue that cuts across political lines, with pro-business conservatives who are worried about rising costs and government overreach, pitted against environmentalists and liberals who want cleaner air.

"I think people have an outdated idea of wind and solar energy efficiency," said Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club. "The fact is, here in 2014, all over the country, wind and solar are as cheap as fossil fuels."

Environmentalists say the new regulations simply advance an existing trend in Georgia. Since 2005, Georgia Power has cut back its carbon dioxide emissions by 22 percent. Across Georgia, the utility has nine coal plants. But this year, it will shut down most or all of three of those plants.

Both sides say Georgia is already a leading developer of solar power. The question Tuesday will be: how much more of a nudge does it need from Uncle Sam. Atlanta is one of four sites across the US holding public hearings on the regulations.


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