Seminole Electric Testifies at House Committee Hearing on Coal Ash
Tampa, Fla. – Seminole Electric Cooperative (Seminole) CEO and General Manager Lisa D. Johnson testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy at a hearing addressing the effects of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently finalized rule on coal combustion residuals.
During the hearing, entitled “EPA’s 2014 Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities,” Johnson shared the electric cooperative perspective and asked for legislative certainty from the Committee.
“Seminole would like to acknowledge that we support the EPA’s decision to designate coal combustion residuals as non-hazardous. The EPA’s approach, supported by data from its own investigations, appropriately balances the need to protect public health and the environment without creating an undue burden on affected facilities,” said Johnson. “Even with a nonhazardous final rule, however, we are seeking your support to provide legislative certainty.”
Coal combustion residuals (CCRs), commonly referred to as coal ash, are materials produced when coal is burned to generate electricity. The EPA issued a final rule on December 19, 2014.
While the EPA will now regulate CCRs as a non-hazardous waste under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), there are areas of the final rule that could be improved through legislative action to ensure electricity remains safe, affordable and reliable, especially for electric cooperative consumers.
For example, the final rule lacks certainty that CCRs will continue to be regulated as nonhazardous. On numerous occasions, the EPA has determined that CCRs are not hazardous – and there are no new findings to justify a change in EPA’s determination.
“We ask that you end the continuous reevaluation process and confirm that CCRs are, and will continue to be, regulated as non-hazardous,” Johnson asked of the Committee.
Seminole owns and operates a 1,300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Putnam County, FL, employing nearly 300 hard-working, skilled Floridians. Seminole’s coal plant generates approximately 800,000 tons of CCRs per year. However, Seminole recycles more than two-thirds, or roughly 550,000 tons, per year of CCRs to produce wallboard, cement, and concrete block.
“Should the EPA decide to regulate CCRs as hazardous at a later time, the cooperative would be forced to dispose of CCRs as a hazardous waste – turning a beneficially used product into an expensive, landfilled waste stream. Without a doubt, this would adversely affect the cost of electricity for our not-for-profit cooperative consumers,” said Johnson.
Seminole has received a Sustainable Leadership Award from the Council for Sustainable Florida for its beneficial reuse of CCRs, and Seminole’s coal-based power plant was named one of the top six coal plants in the world by Power Magazine for its recycling practices and environmental accomplishments.
Seminole Electric Cooperative is one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the country. Its mission is to provide reliable, competitively priced, wholesale electric power to its nine, not-for-profit, consumer-owned distribution electric cooperatives.
Approximately 1.4 million people and businesses in parts of 42 Florida counties rely on Seminole Member cooperatives for electricity. Seminole’s primary resources include the Seminole Generating Station (SGS) in northeast Florida and the Richard J. Midulla Generating Station (MGS) in south central Florida.