A settlement forced by the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency on a Wisconsin power company has forced an employer to prepare to cut jobs and spend millions paying for the Obama Administration’s green energy agenda. The EPA has entered into a consent decree with the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) after federal regulators alleged that two of the company’s coal-fired power plants were in violation of the Clean Air Act. The company disputes the claim.
Under the leadership of Obama appointed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the federal agency has been on a crusade to fundamentally reshape portions of the economy. In addition to using its regulatory power to wage war on coal fired power plants, the EPA has pushed an aggressive green energy agenda that has been criticized by some experts as long on politics but short on science.
In Wisconsin, that dual thrust has collided as Wisconsin Public Service Corporation prepares to spend $300 million to upgrade two power plants, pay a $1.2 million fine to the EPA, and spend no less than $6 million on specific green energy projects outlined by the Obama EPA.
The company has already indicated they are likely to lay off workers and possibly shutter the two power plants. Ironically, in making their case to the EPA, company officials noted that fulfillment of a large part of the EPA’s regulatory imposition would be accomplished by plant upgrades they were already working on.
Administrator Jackson has used the Clean Air Act as justification for her war on coal fired power plants. But at least one former EPA administrator believes the Act is being used today for something it was never intended for. William Reilly, who led the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, told The New York Times in 2011, that Jackson is trying to use “the Clean Air Act to try to accomplish something for which it was never designed, the control of carbon dioxide.”
Jackson has said herself that she views her role and the EPA’s role as an activist one, focused on changing the way Americans get their energy. The EPA seeks to use its position to “level the playing field,” to quote Administrator Jackson, between green energy sources and traditional energy sources. Many forms of green energy are not completely commercially viable at this time with cost savings and reliability issues dogging them.
To help pay for imposing the green energy agenda on local governments, individual consumers, and communities, the EPA appears to be using settlements with power companies to force power suppliers to underwrite the cost of green energy projects. The Wisconsin case is not alone, although it stands as a stark example of the agenda-driven approach adopted by the EPA.
The $6 million that WPS must spend in support of green energy agenda projects is spread across several items. A total of $500,000 must be paid by WPS to the National Forest Service and the National Park Service. Another $300,000 must be spent by WPS on helping a community within its service area of north and eastern Wisconsin set up a manure or biomass digester that can turn waste products into biogas or electrical energy.
Wind energy farms in Wisconsin stand to get a potentially massive windfall of cash, up to $4 million total, from WPS to improve their power production. The funds could be used to buy the latest technology, both hardware and software, used in wind energy production. Alternatively, a hydroelectric project could also receive some of the money in that $4 million pot of cash.
A minimum of $500,000 and a maximum of $2 million must be spent by the power company on replacing wood burning furnaces in stoves in parts of Wisconsin with newer, EPA-standard compliant wood burning appliances. The federal agency also encouraged, but did not mandate, WPS to spend up to $2 million to replace vehicles owned by either WPS or local governments with new alternative fuel powered vehicles.
A final elective project allows WPS to spend up to $2 million installing solar panels on public school buildings and buildings owned by non-profit organizations within their service area. WPS would be required to pay for the maintenance of the solar panel systems for the next 25 years.
The slew of mandates to spend money on special green energy projects isn’t completely unique to the case of Wisconsin Public Service. A similar case in Louisiana found the EPA mandating late last November that Louisiana Generating, which operates a large coal fired power plant in New Roads, Louisiana, pay for a similar series of green energy projects. The EPA insists that the spending is necessary to mitigate the alleged negative environmental impact of the power plants.
How many Wisconsin jobs will be lost as a result of the EPA’s mandate remains to be seen, WPS has not yet announced a concrete number. What is clear is that the President’s EPA is costing some Wisconsin workers their jobs at the expense of pet projects like solar panels and special wood stoves.