News Releases

Sens. Roberts and Moran Work to Preserve America's Rural Communities

Companion legislation introduced in U.S. House by Rep. Bob Latta

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) this week introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate, S. 1702, to exempt existing stationary engines from two final rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), called the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE). Unless these EPA rules are stopped, by 2013 municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and agricultural producers will be required to update existing engines used to generate electricity or pump water with costly emission control technology. U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced companion legislation this week, H.R. 3185, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Many rural communities cannot afford to retrofit their engines, and will be forced to close down their power plants – resulting in even higher costs for consumers,” Sen. Moran said. “EPA’s regulations would also cost Kansas farmers thousands of dollars to modify engines used to pump water for their crops and livestock. This legislation proposes a commonsense solution to limit the impact of these poorly constructed rules on our nation’s rural communities.”

“I’m proud to support legislation that will undue overly burdensome regulations affecting thousands of municipal utilities and farmers nationwide,” said Sen. Roberts, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. “The only thing more impressive than this bill’s lengthy name is this regulation’s level of absurdity. Legislation exempting certain small engines from arduous environmental regulations is so critically important for the continued economic recovery of rural America.”

“Rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities should not fall victim to an overly broad and poorly thought out EPA regulation,” Rep. Latta said. “The EPA’s Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines rule will raise energy prices on 42 million rural electric cooperative consumers, as well as municipal utilities nationwide. Exempting back-up diesel engines during brief periods of high demand is critical in avoiding higher costs in already tough economic times.”

Municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives use stationary diesel and natural gas engines to generate electricity during periods of high demand or during emergency situations – typically operating no more than 100 hours in a given year. In Kansas, there are 56 cities with 306 engines affected by these rules representing 603 megawatts of generation capacity. Already, the city of Norton, Kansas made the decision to close its power plant given the cost of the EPA regulations. If engines are taken offline, cooperatives would be forced to build new coal and natural gas power plants to meet demands during peak periods, potentially negating any environmental benefits of the engine rules and driving up costs for consumers.

Agriculture producers also utilize stationary diesel, gasoline and natural gas engines to pump water necessary for crop and livestock production. Under the EPA’s rules, farmers and ranchers will face added expense to retrofit existing engines with expensive emission control technology and for the first time be subject to mandatory EPA recordkeeping and reporting requirements. 

S. 1702 and H.R. 3185 would exempt existing stationary engines if they are used by municipalities, electric cooperatives, or agricultural producers to generate electricity or pump water, from the two final rules issued by the EPA. The RICE rules would still be effective for new engines or existing engines that do not fit in the above categories. 

“In Kansas, these RICE engines play a critical role in providing reliable and lower-cost electricity to cities, towns and rural areas from Hugoton and Goodland in the west to Sabetha and Girard in the east,” Kansas Municipal Utilities Executive Director Colin Hansen said. “Beyond Kansas, the rule will have a detrimental impact on hundreds of municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives, rural irrigators and other companies and industries all across the United States. Without regulatory relief, we believe there will be community-owned systems forced to close their generating facilities.”

“Today, across the mid-west producers find themselves in an extended drought, where many have failed to produce any crop for an entire year or more. Regulation of this kind could well be the death certificate for many of those family farms,” Kansas Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus said. “Our members also rely on affordable supplies of electricity to power agricultural operations. Under this proposal municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives would face regulation leading to increased costs for consumers and the very real potential that small municipal providers would simply not be able to afford to retrofit their engines and instead take those engines off line.”

S. 1702 and H.R. 3185 are supported by the Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Kansas Municipal Utilities, the Kansas Farm Bureau and various other state municipal utility organizations.

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