When the Obama Administration announced tough new pollution regulations for power plants last year, the industry loudly protested. The rules, which among other things will require coal-fired plants to make deep reductions in mercury and sulphur dioxide emissions by 2015, will cost utilities at least $12 billion, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Coal producers put the price tag at $21 billion. They say electricity prices will spike 12 percent, dozens of plants will close, and thousands of workers will lose their jobs. “This rule is the most extensive intervention into the power market and job market that EPA has ever attempted to implement,” says Scott Segal, a lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents the utility Southern Co. He argues the regulation will “undermine job creation in the United States.”
Tell that to Cal Lockert, the vice-president of Breen Energy Solutions, a Pittsburgh manufacturer of equipment that absorbs acid gases to keep them from spilling out of smokestacks. Lockert spends his days persuading power companies that he can help them bring some of their oldest, dirtiest plants in line with the federal requirements. There’s been “a frenzy of engineering firms and utilities” calling him for demonstrations of his products, he says. He’s hired a dozen people in the past month and says he’s just getting started.