Berkeley Electric CEO: Air quality rules could mean much higher electric bills

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) --{}Officials at Berkeley Electric Cooperative say the utility company does not have enough money to pay for new federal regulations on coal-fired electric power plants, and the utility's president and CEO is worried about how it will affect customers.

"We're not for profit. We're not out trying to make money," said Dwayne Cartwright of Berkeley Electric Cooperative.{}

But he says the utility doesn't have enough money to pay for new federal regulations on coal-fired electric power plants. The president and CEO of Berkeley Electric is worried about the impact on the consumer.

"The cost of energy for our members could go up as much as 54 percent. Which would equate for my average member about a $74 a month increase. We're very concerned about the impact that that will have," said Cartwright.

That's why Berkeley Electric is taking action on the issue with this sign outside its headquarters.{}

"Main thing is they need their name. They need their signature," explained Cartwright as he showed a card that's being sent to members in their April bill.{}

It asks for permission to send their concerns to federal officials asking for a delay in implementing stronger air quality rules.

"We're not against the clean air standards. We're not against renewables. We just feel there needs to be a common sense approach," said Cartwright.

Those stricter EPA regulations are being felt in the Lowcountry.

In October 2012, officials with Santee Cooper announced they needed to retire two coal-fired units at the Jeffries Generator Station in Moncks Corner. They said it was too expensive to upgrade.

Right now 93,000 tons of leftover coal from Jeffries is still being hauled away. Santee Cooper officials say government rules are expensive.

"Last year alone in 2013, we spent $240 million on environmental compliance. So that's just money we spent on regulations," said Nicole Aiello, a spokesperson for Santee Cooper.

She says those are costly rules about coal that could soon be passed along to consumers.

Those new regulations take effect next April.