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Fossil Fuel-Powered Utilities Tells Two, Starkly Different Stories on Environmental Regulations

1 min. read

The Associated Press has a fascinating story about how fossil fuel-powered U.S. utilities and other businesses are telling two, starkly different stories - one to the SEC, one to politicians - when it comes to the impact of proposed environmental regulations on their industries' bottom lines.

Large and small companies have told Republican-led congressional committees what the party wants to hear: dire predictions of plant closings and layoffs if the Obama administration succeeds with plans to further curb air and water pollution.

But their message to financial regulators and investors conveys less gloom and certainty.

The Associated Press compared the companies’ congressional testimony to company reports submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The reports to the SEC consistently said the impact of environmental proposals is unknown or would not cause serious financial harm to a firm’s finances.

[...]

...the disparity in the messages shows that in a political environment, business has no misgivings about describing potential economic horror stories to lawmakers.

For instance, the former executive chairman of Detroit-based utility DTE, which generates 90% of its electricity from fossil fuels, said that "if the EPA had its way, coal-fired plants would be replaced with natural gas — leading to a spike in gas prices." In contrast, the company's the SEC filing stated that the utility was "not able to quantify the financial impact ... at this time." Which is it, doom and gloom or no major impact at all? Those are starkly different stories, with potentially major policy impacts depending on which one wins out. It would be nice if these fossil fuel-powered utilities could at least keep the stories straight from one day to the next.