EPA bans emissions, may backfire during peak power usage - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

EPA bans emissions, may backfire during peak power usage

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Elk Mound (WQOW) - The EPA is targeting emissions from farm and business generators with higher standards beginning this May.

Farms use those generators to power large fans to cool cows and run other critical machinery.

The current generators help keep power costs lower for all of us during peak usage.

Yes, the cows may be the cash crop at Five Star Dairy, but they can't supply their steady flow of milk without the security of a generator.

"Literally we're milking cows 24/7.  It backs up and literally doesn't stop the operations of milking or anything else," says Five Star's general manager, Lee Jensen.

But now the EPA is pulling the plug on the emissions generated by this engine and forcing dairy farms to upgrade, something electric cooperatives compare to buying a new car.

"Having a car in your garage that's a 2000 model and they're saying, before you can drive it again you have to bring it up to 2012 or 2013 or 2014 standards.  Grandfathering these things in wouldn't have hurt anything," says Jackson Electric Cooperative general manager, Greg McFarland.

This decision effects all customers on the power grid because beginning in May, cooperatives will have less control over peak power events.

"More big businesses can't pull off the grid, that makes the power company's peaks higher, that makes everybody's rates higher," says Jensen.

"When we don't get an economic benefit we can't pass it on to the membership.  So yes, it directly effects Jackson Electric and other cooperatives in the state of Wisconsin," says McFarland.

Businesses will be taking the biggest hit though, because if they want to keep a generator they'll have to upgrade or be forced to use power from the grid and pay more.

"They'll have to move to a Tier 4 status as far as new generator engines and stuff like that," says McFarland.

Tier 4 is the latest in EPA standards for diesel engines.

"It's a pretty significant investment, but on the flip side if we don't make that investment, then the cost, in the long run, of electricity is going to be more than that," says Jensen.

All for something that acts more as a security blanket than an environmental hazard.

"On a year like last year and the year before, in the summer months it probably ran five or six times," says Jensen.

Cooperatives say the EPA ruling means all customers can expect to see a slight bump in electric bills and you'll probably also see the change reflected in milk prices at the grocery store.

Businesses and farms will still be allowed to use older generators for emergency power for a limited number of hours throughout the year.

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