Utility president warns of natural-gas price volatility

“Whether that volatility has changed permanently remains to be seen,” he added.

Akins said natural-gas prices could spike if major environmental issues emerge with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the natural-gas drilling method that has enabled the shale production boom.

He also said natural-gas prices are vulnerable to volatile weather conditions, adding that they could increase as export and import facilities for liquefied natural gas are constructed.

Coal makes up a major portion of American Electric Power's (AEP) generating capacity, but low natural-gas prices and new EPA air pollution regulations have driven the Ohio-based company to diversify its fuel mix.

AEP has said it will retire more than 5,000 megawatts of coal-fired power, switching to natural gas and other fuel sources.

“By 2020, only 50 percent of our generation fleet will burn coal,” Akins said during his remarks Thursday.

Akins took aim at pending EPA air pollution regulations, arguing they will “will unnecessarily increase electricity prices and put the reliability of the grid at risk in several parts of the country.” AEP has been very critical of EPA in the past.

The regulations “make absolutely no sense” amid the Obama administration’s efforts to boost the economy and create jobs, he said.

Akins touted legislation authored by Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (D-W.Va.) and Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans Questions mount over Trump-Putin discussions Overnight Defense: White House 'not considering' Ukraine referendum | Pompeo hopeful on plans for Putin visit | Measure to block ZTE deal dropped from defense bill MORE (R-Ind.) to delay the compliance period for EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution and Utility MACT (maximum available control technology) rules.

The cross-state rule aims to limit air pollution that crosses state lines. The Utility MACT requires power plants to limit the release of mercury and other air toxics.