Most Americans worried EPA regulations mean higher electricity bills, blackouts

National Mining Association

Most Americans (76 percent) are at least somewhat worried that new regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove coal-powered electricity from the nation’s energy mix will lead to higher prices for consumers, according to an online survey of 2,058 adults conducted in April 2014 by Harris Poll on behalf of the National Mining Association (NMA).

The national poll also reveals that concern is greatest (88 percent) among retirees — people living on fixed incomes who are particularly sensitive to cost increases.

The survey highlights the impact the winter price surge had on household finances and quality of life. Of the 76 percent of Americans responsible for paying their utility bills and who had higher bills this winter, more than half (56 percent) said their day-to-day lives were affected with these higher bills this winter.

For example, those affected said they were forced to set thermostats lower than was comfortable (32 percent) and forced to cut back on leisure activities (28 percent). Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) also reported that higher electricity costs limited their ability to buy necessities such as groceries, food and health care, suggesting lower-income households might have been forced to decide between heating their homes and eating.

“Americans are rightfully concerned about higher electricity prices,” said Hal Quinn, president and CEO of NMA. “If EPA continues to push forward with unrealistic standards for coal-based power plants, consumers’ fears will become locked in for the foreseeable future. The leap in electricity bills consumers saw this winter is as much the result of EPA’s policies as it is the cold weather.”

According to NMA data, the EPA’s regulations will result in more than 20 percent of the country’s coal-powered electricity’s — the nation’s largest component of electricity generation — being removed from the energy grid by 2020 if not sooner, which puts greater price pressure on natural gas and alternative fuels to fill the gap.

“Unfortunately, less diversity of our power resources will endanger utilities’ ability to provide a reliable supply of energy at the lowest cost to consumers,” Quinn said.

According to the survey, 70 percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that new EPA regulations to eliminate coal-powered electricity from the nation’s energy mix, if approved, will lead to electricity blackouts and brownouts this summer.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acting Chair Cheryl LaFleur said during the agency’s April 1 technical conference on the winter’s effects on regional transmission organizations’ markets and operations that on some days this past winter, the energy grid was “pushed to the edge,” jeopardizing the ability to  provide uninterrupted electricity to all regions of the country.

Quinn said this winner was a warning about how important a diverse energy mix it to fulfill demands on the nation’s power supply.

“The EPA’s power plants regulations have moved too far, too fast,” he said. “We hope this survey demonstrates to policymakers that American families want and need the dependable, affordable electricity that EPA proposals currently threaten to remove.”

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online from April 8-10 among 2,058 U.S. adults by Harris Poll on behalf of the National Mining Association. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. 

Click here to request executive summary or full methodology

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