The EPA says new air pollution regulations will save lives, but some Nebraska officials are saying it can't be done as quickly as mandated.
The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) was finalized in July. 27 states are being told to improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions and they need to have is done by January 1, 2012.
U.S. Senator Mike Johanns has been talking with Nebraska utility departments who say there's no way power plants can meet that deadline.
"Nobody's coming here today and saying, 'well, we don't want to comply' or 'just leave us alone,'" said Johanns after a roundtable discussion with the City of Hastings Utilities Department. "What people are saying is 'this isn't reasonable,' and it's not."
Hastings Utilities says the newer of their two coal fired power plants would be compliant with the new rules. However, it would cost $40-50 million and take 3-5 years to get the other one ready.
"The way the rule works you'll just have to shut down or limit the operation of the energy center so you can only generate so much," said Hastings Utilities Manager Marvin Schultes.
Schultes says Hastings would likely have to generate that power with natural gas instead, and though the plant sometimes uses natural gas during peak times and as a stand-by, that's not a cost effective option.
Senator Johanns says Nebraska needs time - time to get money and to build the infrastructure that will make power plants compliant without becoming a sudden cost to consumers.
"You look at the goal of having clean air, and nobody's against that goal, nobody in America is against that goal," said Johanns. "It's just that the way they are doing this is really outrageously unfair to ratepayers."
"Nebraska's 100% public power, there are no stakeholders other than you and me as ratepayers," said Schultes. "Anytime the costs go up for public power that has to be paid by the ratepayers in the state of Nebraska."
The EPA says the benefits of the CSAPR outweigh the costs, and will help avoid 13-34,000 premature deaths across the country.
Senator Johanns says he is working on drafting legislation that would give states like Nebraska more time to comply, but he says getting it through Congress will be an uphill battle.
Click on the link below to access more information about CSAPR on the EPA's website.