Environmental Leaders to American Electric Power: What’s Your Number?

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club are launching a new campaign that challenges American Electric Power (AEP) to publicly name the number of lives it wants Congress to sacrifice to give AEP and other polluters delays and rollbacks of national limits on toxic air pollution.

While other utilities are investing in technology and jobs to clean up toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants and meet new national pollution standards on time, AEP is promoting on Capitol Hill a sweeping, 56-page bill it drafted to weaken and delay federal clean air standards. AEP lobbyists wrote the bill, dubbed it the Electric Power Regulatory Coordination Act of 2011, and then went looking for lawmakers to sponsor it.

Columbus, Ohio-based AEP is one of the largest emitters of toxic air pollution in the country. In 2008, AEP emitted more mercury, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide pollution than any other American utility. 

If the AEP bill were to become law, in the first two years alone it would permit the release of mercury, acid gases, and arsenic that would contribute to as many as 34,000 deaths, 220,000 asthma attacks, and 1.5 million missed work days – severe health impacts that would be avoided by implementation of EPA’s recently proposed clean air standards for the nation’s most toxic pollutants.

Statements of Environmental Leaders:

“Instead of promoting a big polluters’ bill of rights to delay scientists from issuing updates that protect our health, AEP should be cleaning up its deadly pollution and looking for clean energy alternatives,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Investing in clean energy would not only protect countless American lives but help create jobs and boost the economy.”

 “Today we are asking AEP a simple question: What’s your number? What’s the acceptable number of American lives to surrender?” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. “After 20 years of delay, AEP wants America to wait another six years before we limit toxic mercury from some power plants – and they want to delay limits on a host of other dangerous pollutants.”

“AEP made $1.2 billion in profits last year -- while America’s children suffered asthma hospitalizations and mercury-related developmental delays,” said Krupp. “This draft bill represents Washington at its worst: corporate lobbyists writing legislation to block limits on toxic pollution and then shopping around for Members of Congress to sponsor it.  We’ll see who is willing to put their name on it and put their constituents’ health at risk.”

"Corporate polluters like AEP have stooped to a new low in their efforts to keep their profits flowing at the expense of millions of Americans' health.  AEP wants a license to kill and they need to be stopped, said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“AEP says that ‘strong environmental performance is essential to fulfilling our corporate social responsibilities,’” added Krupp. “If that’s true, the company should stop trying to sell this dirty air bill, and get back to work.”

Background on Draft AEP Legislation


A 56-page discussion draft circulated on April 29, 2011 (dubbed the “Electric Power Regulatory Coordination Act of 2011”) would halt implementation of the nation’s clean air laws for the nation’s single largest source of air pollution:  fossil fueled power plants. The abstruse legal language set out in the 56 page document would rip apart the fabric of our nation’s clean air laws.   If it became law, the discussion draft would allow harmful air pollution would persist for years longer, imposing a heavy health burden on America’s children: 

  • In the first two years alone, the pollution allowed under the discussion draft is associated with as many as 34,000 deaths, 220,000 asthma attacks, and 1.5 million missed work and sick days,* health-harming impacts that would be prevented by timely implementation of EPA’s proposed clean air standards for the nation’s most toxic pollutants.  
  • For over a decade, the discussion draft categorically bars EPA from taking action to (1) limit power plant emissions of arsenic, chromium, and acid gases, (2) protect human health imperiled by interstate air pollution transport discharged by coal-fired power plants, (3) reduce the haze pollution in America’s premier national parks, and (4) finalize proposed emission standards to reduce power sector sulfur dioxide pollution, which transforms into lethal particulates.   
  • The discussion draft would halt the application of clean air protections under two landmark Supreme Court cases, Massachusetts v. EPA and Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy, to power plant pollution by, for example, prohibiting significant reductions in climate-disrupting pollution from the nation’s existing coal plants for over a decade; these facilities are the nation’s single largest source of climate pollution, discharging 1.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually and 4.9 million tons daily. 

While AEP and some other power companies are seeking to erode bedrock clean air protections, other major utilities are supporting  healthier air for America:   

  • Dick Kelly, Chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, Xcel CEO and Chairman:  “Pursuing emission reductions for several years positions us to meet future environmental goals, and we have a variety of tools which we can do that with”; “we do have the foundations for a very, very successful future.” [Dec. 1, 2010 Investor Meeting]
  • William Johnson, President and CEO, Progress Energy on the proposed merger of Duke Power and Progress: “As a result of these combined actions, we believe the new company will be well positioned to meet the new EPA MACT regulations expected later this year and in to 2012.  We still have much work to do to comply with these rules, which could require significant additional capital investment and additional announced plant closures.  However, we are further down the road on compliance than many other companies with large coal fleets.  We should also benefit by combining best practices in our fleet modernization efforts.” [Jan. 10, 2011 Investor Meeting]
  • Peter Darbee, Chairman, President and CEO, PG&E Corp.; Jack Fusco, President and CEO, Calpine Corp.; Lewis Hay, Chairman and CEO, NextEra Energy, Inc.; Ralph Izzo, Chairman, President and CEO, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc.; Thomas King, President, National Grid USA; John Rowe, Chairman and CEO, Exelon Corp.; Mayo Shattuck, Chairman, President and CEO, Constellation Energy Group:   “The electric sector has known that these rules were coming. Many companies, including ours, have already invested in modern air-pollution control technologies and cleaner and more efficient power plants. For over a decade, companies have recognized that the industry would need to install controls to comply with the act's air toxicity requirements, and the technology exists to cost effectively control such emissions, including mercury and acid gases.”  [Dec. 8, 2010 Wall Street Journal letter to the editor]

The nation’s largest power companies are financially well positioned to comply with these important health protections.  In 2010, the top ten power companies by generating capacity [MWh] had a combined $28.4 billion in profits and $7.5 billion in cash balances.

*The proposed AEP legislation would delay and weaken new EPA standards to address the most toxic contaminants at power generation facilities nationwide. EPA has estimated that in 2016 the annual particulate matter-related benefits of the proposed rule for adults will “include approximately 6600 to 17,000 fewer premature mortalities, 4,300 fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, 10,000 fewer non-fatal heart attacks, 12,000 fewer hospitalizations (for respiratory and cardiovascular disease combined), 4.9 million fewer days of restricted activity due to respiratory illness and approximately 830,000 fewer lost work days. We also estimate substantial health improvements for children in the form of 110,000 fewer asthma attacks, 6,700 fewer hospital admissions due to asthma, 10,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis, and approximately 210,000 fewer cases of upper and lower respiratory illness.” 76 Fed. Reg. 24,976, 26,090 (May 3, 2011) If AEP has its way and the rules are blocked, all of those projected annual benefits would be lost for at least two years, with ongoing harm in subsequent years as well.

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