Letter: PSC Doesn't Regulate Coal Industry

by | Sep 26, 2013

Dear Editor,

I was struck by your story, “Ala. PSC candidates vow to fight for coal” on Sept. 20. The Public Service Commission plays a crucial role in oversight of monopolies like Alabama Power. It does not, however, regulate the coal industry, nor does it influence its jobs or profits. There are state agencies that supervise the coal industry — the Alabama Surface Mining Commission for one — but not the PSC. It is incumbent on the News’ reporters and editors to ensure their readers understand the distinction.

So why are these individuals campaigning on promises they cannot keep? That’s the sort of question the Tuscaloosa News should pose when confronted with outlandish statements by candidates like Jonathan Barbee, who said, “I think we need to protect the coal industry … that’s the most important thing.”

The job of Public Service Commissioner is to protect consumers from exorbitant prices. That’s the most important thing to those of us who pay Alabama Power bills.

Utilities across the nation are turning away from coal to cheaper sources of energy like natural gas, and cleaner ones such as wind and solar.

Even as Alabama Power burns less coal overall, the majority of coal it does use is imported from outside Alabama. That trend will continue according to Southern Company, Alabama Power’s parent company. Southern Company’s coal director announced this week that the company’s purchases from the Central Appalachian Region would drop to 1% over the next couple of years.

All of which begs the question, what is the real story here?

Stacie Propst
Executive Director, GASP

About The GASP Team
Gasp is a nonprofit health advocacy organization based in Birmingham, Ala. Our mission is to reduce air pollution, to educate the public on the health risks associated with dirty air, and to encourage community leaders to serve as role models for clean air and clean energy production.
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