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Positive Electricity News Tempered by EPA Threats

Positive Electricity News Tempered by EPA Threats

“Mild summer temperatures have helped to keep electricity bills lower than they otherwise would have been,” said Kyle J. Kuntz, general manager and CEO of Sam Houston Electric Cooperative. “Natural gas inventories have rebounded somewhat following last winter’s frigid temperatures; power plants that were down for repairs are back on line; and we are anticipating lower wholesale energy costs in the near future. This is good news for members of our Cooperative.”

According to Kuntz, however, as wholesale power costs are looking better, the threat of harsh rulings from the Environmental Protection Agency threaten to drastically increase electric bills in the coming years.

“There’s a lot of work to do, in Washington and here at home, as we work with legislators and the EPA to let them know how these potentially burdensome regulations will impact the average household,” Kuntz said. “For the 10 electric cooperatives in East Texas, the total impact could be as much as $2.9 billion. That’s $40 per month on the average electric bill. Between now and the year 2020, when the impact is expected to hit hardest, the EPA could force the shutdown of four coal plants that generate reliable, affordable electricity for East Texas.”

According to Kuntz, the problem is that Washington keeps changing the rules.

“We have done what has been asked of us,” Kuntz said. “We are constructing state-of-the-art renewable power plants in Woodville (fueled by wood chips) and on Lake Livingston. We have built natural gas-fired peaking plants in San Jacinto County and in Hardin County. Our coal plants meet or exceed requirements that have been in place. Unfortunately, those requirements could be changing again.”

Kuntz also shared that the threat goes far beyond higher electric bills.

“The potential negative economic impact is tremendous,” Kuntz said. “School districts that receive the majority of their tax revenues from coal-fired plants in their districts could see those plants close and lose almost all of their tax base. Jobs will disappear as well, and electric service reliability could suffer.”

“For 75 years, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative’s goal has been to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity for our members,” Kuntz said. “The stated goal of the current administration and of the EPA is to drive electricity prices up in order to force development of renewable energy resources. We are doing our part. Through ETEC, our generation and transmission provider, we are investing $300 million in renewable energy. What we are seeking, on behalf of our members, is to have a balanced approach from Washington and to stop changing the rules. Let’s not ignore the impact their decisions will have on American families.”

“Our promise to Sam Houston EC members,” Kuntz continued, “is that our first priority will always be to provide them with safe, reliable, affordable electricity while being good stewards of our East Texas natural resources. There is much to be done, and our work is already underway. We will keep our members informed as efforts progress, and we encourage our members to share their thoughts with their elected officials in Washington, D.C., and in Austin.”

[Photo] To meet the growing demand for electricity in East Texas, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative and the nine other electric cooperatives that make up East Texas Electric Cooperative, constructed the Woodville Renewable Power Facility, which is powered by wood chips. Here, a truck full of chips is unloaded on the “tipper.” The Woodville plant, and the R.C. Thomas Hydroelectric Facility, soon to be constructed on Lake Livingston, are important renewable energy resources in meeting the ever increasing demands of the Environmental Protection Agency.