(September 2012) Our annual financial ranking shows some remarkable shifts among the industry’s shareholder value leaders. Despite flat demand and low commodity prices, investor-owned...
team to take responsibility for reporting and explaining release data.
• Be prepared to acknowledge how bad the numbers might appear. Be ready to explain that the data identifies releases only-not the degree of public exposure.
• Explain why you chose to build coal plants. Emphasize any constraints on the use of natural gas at the time of construction, plus the relatively low cost of coal.
• Document progress on reducing overall emissions. Spell out your plans for reducing them further.
• Consider a regional or statewide effort to develop and assign relative toxicity rankings to chemicals to help put your emissions into perspective.
Some utilities are not taking the voluminous TRI requirements and the added reporting expense lying down. Dayton Power & Light and Entergy Services have sued the EPA over whether the agency can broaden the scope of TRI beyond its original application to manufacturing facilities only. The companies say their generating facilities are regulated through other federal laws,fn5, which have reporting requirements of their own.
The utilities also are challenging whether EPA's expanded definition of a "release" applies to the chemicals and chemical compounds that come out of a generating plant but aren't necessarily "released" into the environment. One example would be the metals bound up in coal ash, which is disposed of in certified landfills and doesn't come into contact with the public. The judge in the case, June L. Green in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia,fn6, is expected to issue a ruling by April. Whatever she decides, the losing party is likely to appeal.
Dealing With Competitors:
Lessons From the NOx Wars
A utility that operates in an increasingly competitive market where environmental stewardship is influencing its authority in policy circles and perhaps the market should think hard about releasing its TRI data very early in the upcoming year. Otherwise, the company could find itself on the defensive, as a competitor that releases its data earlier probably will have already set the tone and expectations for utilities in the region. You can bet they will be ready to spin the benefits of their approach in contrast to other regional power suppliers.
One hint of how environmental performance could distinguish electric generators can be seen in the debate over nitrogen oxide emissions and other precursors of ozone that plague large cities during the summer. This tussle pits environmentalists and primarily Public Service Electric & Gas in New Jersey against predominantly coal-fired utilities in the Southeast and upper Midwest.
PSE&G, which uses nuclear and natural gas as well as coal to generate electricity for customers in a vertical swath of northern and central New Jersey, is arguing-so far successfully-that out-of-state NOx emissions are carried into New Jersey by prevailing air streams. The company says it is being tagged with someone else's clean-up bill and that is driving up its costs.
PSE&G wants any electricity marketer, including lower-cost, coal-fired utilities eager to enter the New Jersey market, to abide by comparable environmental standards. At least one predominantly coal-fired utility in the Midwest, American Electric Power, has