How EPA regulations will affect the Panhandle

The EPA announced a proposal to reduce carbon emission levels from existing power plants by 30%, calling into question the future of coal fire powered plants and coal production.

The regulations are reductions on carbon emissions from the 2005 level, which means power plants are already nine years into reducing those numbers. The state of Texas has already seen a 10% reduction, according to Hugh Reed of Eco-Logical Environmental Services, a local environmental scientist.

â??We get most of our energy here from a coal-fired power plant because we have good prices on coal in this area. Itâ??s a long-term contract so its shipped in. So obviously areas that produce coal or coal-mining communities are going to be affected. However, weâ??re not a coal-mining industry. They are going to have to get that energy from other sources. Natural gas being the primary one,â?? said Reed. â??We produce a lot of natural gas in this area. If it drives natural gas prices up, itâ??s going to mean more jobs for the area.â??

Right now, XCEL Energy is the primary energy resource for the Panhandle and they have two major plants; Nichols, which is natural resource gas and Harrington, which relies on coal. Though they said they were unable to comment on exact changes or plans for the future with their coal plant, they did release this statement:

â??EPAâ??s proposed greenhouse gas rule has the potential to significantly change how we produce and consume electricity in this country. Xcel Energy has taken steps over the past decade to reduce emissions at a reasonable cost to customers, and these steps should help us respond to this rule,â?? Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy said. â??Through well-designed state clean energy programs, Xcel Energy is on a path to reduce carbon dioxide by about 30 percent by 2020

. We appreciate the EPAâ??s effort to gather stakeholder input as it developed the rule. The proposed rule is complex, and as we work through it and the upcoming rulemaking process, we will advocate for the continued ability to provide the reliable, affordable power customers need, in an environmentally responsible manner.â??

Texas consumes and produces more electricity than any other state, accounting for more than one-tenth of total U.S. energy use. However, Texas and the Panhandle are rich in renewable energy potential, with some of the greatest wind power potential according to Susan Combsâ?? Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, â??Texas Energy Quick Factsâ??.

â??Itâ??s probably a good thing for this area because we produce a lot of natural gas and thatâ??s going to be one of the main drivers to help reduce this. This is basically aimed at coal production and coal fired power plants. Coal production produces more carbon and also a lot of particulate matter, which is not good for asthma and other health issues,â?? said Reed.

XCEL Energy showed ProNews 7 a graphic demonstrating how the company had reduced CO2 emissions by 19% since 2005 and were projected to cut down by 31% in 2020. However, even with the reduction, 71.9 millions of tons of CO2 came from XCEL in 2013.

As of now, there are no updates as to what the regulations will do for customer utility bills, however XCEL said they â??will advocate for the continued ability to provide the reliable and affordable power customers need in an environmentally responsible manner.â?? State must submit plans by June of 2016 and the EPA proposal is slated to be finalized next year.