By Alan Heckler, Ozarks News Journal

Springfield, MO—Janet Hinson is a Springfield resident that has lived in an apartment since February on a disability income of $720 a month. While the landlord kicks in some of the cost for water, Janet is still paying around $100 a month for electric. That cost can run higher, especially during times of extreme temperatures.

Assistance is available from the Missouri low income home energy assistance program, but the program only provides assistance once a year, if the renter is in danger of getting their electricity cut off or if winter heating costs are too high. Other programs assist as well, but have the same policy.

“If it got much higher than $100 I don’t know if I’d be able to use these places more than once a year, so that would be hard.” Hinson added. She further explained that residents in her income bracket sometimes get disconnected and find themselves in a difficult situation.

“If you get disconnected, it’s very hard to get reconnected, because you’re charged a reconnection fee and possibly a disconnect fee in addition to the past due amount. So, sometimes, once you’re cut off it’s really hard to get the money to get back on,” stated Hinson.

A few years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency added mercury regulations to Springfield’s John Twitty Energy Center and the James River Energy Center. Customer utility bills went up to cover the cost.

Joel Alexander is a manager of communications for Springfield city utilities.

“[It’s] thirty-eight million dollars of investment that our customers have to ultimately [contribute], in both the plants. It’s an investment here at ‘J Jack.’ There is an investment in the James River power station looking at the mercury; that’s stage one,” said Alexander.

Not only has there been a mercury regulation at the John Twitty Energy Center, but in the future, there may also be a regulation on carbon as well.

If the regulation goes into effect, the energy center will have to capture their carbon which could lead to another rise in utility bills.

“We don’t know exactly those cost will be for carbon. We still have to wait and see exactly. Number one: how do you capture the carbon? There is no proven method of doing that at this time. So we have to see exactly what that will be, how we would integrate into the plant right now, and how we would integrate that into the future of city utilities proving energy to our customers,” added Alexander.

The John Twitty Energy Center has multiple sources of fuel, including natural gas and coal. A recent forty acre solar farm, installed about a month ago, has reduced emissions by 90 percent since the early 1980’s.

If new EPA regulations go into effect, Springfield residents could be hit with the cost of paying for the regulations–leaving renters like Janet Hinson in need of all the help she can get.