Clean Air Villain of the Month

February 2000


You'd think an organization called the "North American Electric Reliability Council" (NERC) would produce "reliable" reports.

Guess again.

This non-profit corporation, whose members include investor-owned electric utilities and other power interests, has drafted a study that claims a U.S. EPA plan to clean up smog-forming pollution from electric power plants could threaten brownouts.

The NERC study gives new meaning to the term "junk science." By manipulating information and disregarding the facts, NERC tries to raise the specter of "reliability."

We've heard that "reliability" argument before -- from big polluters, including many members of the Edison Electric Institute, that have fought the air pollution cleanup plan tooth and nail. These scare tactics have been refuted by several studies, including one done by other power companies.

NERC seeks to posture as an "objective" source of information. But its new study was initiated and funded by none other than the very same Edison Electric Institute. The product of this effort appears designed for use as a lobbying and propaganda tool.

One example should suffice to undercut the study's credibility. The consultants hired to produce the study called utilities to find out exactly how long they might have to go offline to install needed pollution control equipment. Two weeks was the answer -- a time period that would not threaten reliability.

But the study inexplicably and arbitrarily assumed that the shutdowns could take four and a half weeks -- more than double the findings of the study itself -- in order to reach the conclusion that reliability is threatened.

In other words, this study is the same old polluter propaganda with a different cover.