Monthly Archives: December 2014

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

EPA’s Fibs in its War on Coal

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Without affordable, reliable energy, life is short and brutal. Visit any place where families struggle to live without cheap electricity, and you will be horrified at the suffering. Without rational stewardship of natural resources, life is on a pathway to destruction. Visit any part of the world where carelessness rules resource utilization, and you will witness a ticking time bomb of misery.

These issues are complex and make it difficult for anyone, expert or not, to see the best path. In contrast, there are plenty of signs that will let you know who is and who isn’t being straight with you. How does the average citizen see clearly when, in fact, the experts are so divided on the complex and confusing issues? You gauge it the same way you choose the people and businesses you deal with on a daily basis.

Most disturbing about the war on coal are the levels and persistence of deception. The trendy, hip, cool approach has been to rush into “renewable energy” sources and shut down traditional sources of energy based on a huge deception called “consensus science.” The infamous “97 percent of all scientists agree” that has been pounded into our memories by President Obama’s campaign is, in fact, a well-funded and perniciously propagated deception. It’s one of many unethical tricks to get folks going along with nonsensical non-science. However, the dirty little secret about “renewables” is there is no magic fix for the nearly insurmountable barriers of storage and distribution of energy. Despite decades of engineering efforts and subsidies, hoped-for success is as elusive as it was during the first giddy green rush.

Here is a list of the falsehoods that just one agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, has been foisting on the American public to help add rainbows to its unicorn-filled coloring book:

The first fib is that the carbon dioxide regulations shutting down U.S. coal-fired power plants will have a measurable effect on carbon dioxide worldwide. In reality, China’s carbon dioxide increases alone will neutralize any advantage. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, each moderate volcanic eruption will negate decades worth of carbon dioxide reductions. The reality is all these radical proposals for carbon dioxide emission cuts cannot and will not lead to any major global temperature change.

The second deception is that new mercury rules, which are tied to U.S. coal-fired power plants, will save 17,000 lives per year. This is a curious claim by the EPA, especially since there is no record of a single documented death from airborne environmental mercury. U.S. power plants release about 42 tons of mercury into the air per year, but volcanoes spew about 10,000 tons per year. If we shut down all coal-electricity generation in the nation, it would barely amount to a 3 percent reduction of mercury in Florida. The Gulf of Mexico, just by being here, contributes about 40 percent of airborne mercury, as it has for several million years. There is zero correlation between airborne mercury and the organic mercury found in some fish.

The EPA has composed a list of 187 “hazardous air pollutants.” On the question of which is responsible for more carbon dioxide and mercury — the United States or Mother Nature — you can decide.

The third tall tale is we can replace all coal-fired power plants with nuclear and renewables by 2030 at virtually no economic impact because of the savings from fuel, health and other environmental issues. One small problem: This claim requires building more than 1,000 nuclear power plants to replace the loss of coal, and the massive economic losses that utilities would face would have to be absorbed by taxpayers. Does anyone really think the EPA would allow the construction of 1,000 nuclear plants in the next 15 years?

The only jobs created by the EPA’s unlawful rule-making would be to the agency’s own employee rolls from about 20,000 to more than 250,000.

Remember, all wind and solar energy must have fossil fuel or nuclear backup because “renewables” have a proven record of unreliable delivery. The U.N. climate conference in Peru this month produced the largest carbon footprint of any U.N. climate conference thus far because it was powered by diesel generators, owing to the organizers’ genuine concern about the reliability of solar panels.

Twenty years ago, renewable zealots convinced Congress that 10 years of taxpayer assistance would be plenty to have a viable competitor for traditional energy. Ask Germany and Spain how that national commitment to renewables has worked out over the past 15 years. Spain’s economy is in a shambles. Germany is shutting down most of its offshore wind program and building coal-fired power plants as fast as possible to ward off financial disaster.

Tyrannical shoving of immature technologies down the throats of the taxpayer, without regard to the consequences, is outrageous. Energy costs from traditional sources have been artificially, and substantially, raised. These are non-market-based increases in the cost of living, and no one suffers more than the poor. The deception about all of the “free energy” has become nothing less than a war on carbon dioxide, gas of life. There has been no greater deception than the panacea of renewable energy, the holy grail of the EPA and the climate alarmist community.

• Dennis Mitchell is a qualified environmental professional and certified public accountant based in Laurel Hill, Florida. Willie Soon is a solar and Earth scientist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Read the article.

 

Another View: Coal is an Essentual Part of Our Energy Menu

By John Pippy

Times Guest Columnist

Jack Rodgers’ recent letter is correct in pointing out that “crucial details need to be worked out” in the proposed Clean Power Plan.

Such work remains because of the realities of supply and demand. The Clean Power Plan’s requirements will force the closings of coal-fired power plants when no other sources of electricity are prepared to make up the difference. The diminished supply of baseload electricity will cause skyrocketing electric rates.

Coal provides a reliable and affordable supply of baseload electricity representing 40 percent of the electric market in Pennsylvania, while renewable sources constitute single-digit percentages. No combination of renewables, natural gas, nuclear power and conservation can replace the demand on the timeline mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., isn’t alone in drawing attention to this reality. In an interview with WPXI this year, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., made similar comments: “We should try to achieve an EPA policy as it relates to Pennsylvania as well as other states that doesn’t put that kind of burden on ratepayers.”

State agencies have also shown opposition to the plan. The targets for renewable energy use and efficiency programs “are not credible and will be unattainable,” according to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in its comments submitted to the EPA during the recently concluded comment period on the proposed regulations.

Emission reductions are a laudable goal. According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, carbon emissions from the fossil fuel-fired electric generating fleet in Pennsylvania have declined by 12 percent from 2008 through 2013.

The energy industry already is making significant strides toward carbon reductions. A collaborative approach that includes all of our resources will achieve environmental goals while minimizing the negative impact on consumers and the economy.

John Pippy is the CEO of the Harrisburg-based PA Coal Alliance.

Read the article here.

 

Texas Says Federal Plan for Coal Plant Emissions is Too Harsh

Texas is not Kentucky. Or West Virginia. That’s clear to everyone.

But there’s conflict over what these distinctions mean when it comes to President Barack Obama’s plan to sharply reduce climate-altering pollution from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s leading source of carbon dioxide emissions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however, says it’s requiring Texas to do more than coal-dependent states because of its vast potential to develop less-carbon-intensive energy sources. In assigning the reductions, the agency says it took into account what each state could achieve without causing economic harm.

Texas isn’t so sure. The fairness argument is at the forefront of its 212-page criticism of the proposed regulation, which state leaders call a job-killer that would raise wholesale electricity rates as much as 20 percent and force some coal plants to retire prematurely.

In comments recently filed with the EPA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality wrote: “The disparate state goals proposed by EPA would result in inequitable treatment of the states.” Texas has taken steps to diversify its energy mix, but the carbon-fighting plan “actually penalizes the state for making these efforts.”

The comments were among more than 1.5 million filed this month in response to the proposed rule, which the EPA is expected to finalize by June 2015.

Texas burns more coal than any other state in part because of its large and growing population and industrial base. But the carbon-intensive fuel accounted for less than 40 percent of the state’s power use last year.

The federal proposal calls for Texas to reduce its carbon emissions 39 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. In contrast, West Virginia and Kentucky, which generate nearly all of their power from coal, would be required to make cuts of 20 and 18 percent, respectively.

Some Texas officials have questioned whether the proposed reduction is even possible without a radical shift in generation toward natural gas, wind and solar and a stronger push to use energy more efficiently. Texas’ power grid operator has said about half of the state’s coal-burning capacity might be retired under the federal plan.

But some experts say Texas wrongly views the rules as an existential threat to its energy-heavy economy. Instead, they argue, the state could achieve the federal targets without a lot of new initiatives.

The disconnect persists because “this regulation hits the status quo harder than any other, and we have powerful economic interests in this state wanting to maintain the status quo, ” said Thomas McGarity, a University of Texas at Austin law professor who specializes in government regulation.

The combination has caused some operators to decide whether to retire their coal plants or retrofit them with expensive new pollution controls.

In its formal comments on the proposal, the Sierra Club said Texas could achieve the EPA’s proposed target by retiring 10 coal-burning power plants that are more than 40 years old and replacing them with natural gas-fired plants.

“We talk about how there is a war on coal, and that’s true, ” said Victor Flatt, a professor of environmental law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But there isn’t a war on fossil fuels. This rule is favorable to natural gas. In the end, I don’t think it will have the huge economic impact that people say it will.”

But there are concerns that the EPA will require states to make emissions cuts too quickly, leading to unintended consequences.

By requiring states to achieve most of their carbon reductions by 2020, the EPA could be encouraging a rush on natural gas to preserve electric reliability at the expense of developing no-carbon, renewable sources, such as wind and solar, NRG told the agency.

NRG, co-based in Houston, suggested the EPA allow states to determine their own path to achieving the assigned 2030 targets.

“This will allow states to achieve moderate emission reductions in the early years with relatively straightforward policy approaches, while providing them with more time to develop additional policies needed to spur greater emission reductions in the later years of the next decade, ” the company wrote in a 31-page response to the proposal.

Michael Nasi, a lawyer representing operators of coal plants in Texas, told the EPA the proposal fails to realize that the state needed four decades to build its current capacity for renewable energy, and it had the help of federal subsidies.

The EPA plan assumes – “without consideration of economics or grid stability” – that Texas will increase its use of wind and solar by 153 percent over the next eight to 14 years. That’s a burden no other state has, Nasi said.

But McGarity, the UT professor, said Texas shouldn’t be scared of the target because the state has abundant energy sources other than coal.

“We’re not well-endowed in coal, ” he said.

What’s more, he said, technology advances when “the pressure is there” from regulation.

Read the article here.

Lawmakers Press Obama to Rescind Climate Rule

A group of bipartisan lawmakers is urging President Obama to withdraw the administration’s climate regulation on carbon pollution from existing power plants.

In a letter sent to Obama on Friday, 102 members of Congress argue the proposal would “dramatically” change the way “we generate, transmit and consume electricity in the United States.”

Six Democrats joined 96 Republicans in signing the letter, which argues the Environmental Protection Agency proposal would “threaten electricity reliability and drive up energy costs.”

“This rule is simply unworkable as proposed and, if finalized, would effectively give EPA control over a state’s generation, supply, and consumption of power,” the letter states.

Opponents of the rule, which mandates that the nation’s fleet of existing power plants cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, argue it will hurt coal miners, negatively impact the economy and drive up costs.

The EPA contends that coal is already losing its competitive edge and being pushed out by natural gas without any regulations. The rule seeks to curb earth-warming greenhouse gases and help prevent asthma and respiratory problems among children and adults, the EPA says.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy has stressed that the rule is “flexible” and allows states to design a plan based on its energy sources.

Still, Republicans have vowed to delay or block the rule through legislation, or spending bill riders, next year when the party takes control of the Senate.

Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), one of the Democrats who signed the letter, blasted the EPA for “overreaching its authority.”

“The proposed EPA rule would mean higher energy costs for consumers and would have a detrimental impact on our nation’s economy. Congress cannot and must not allow that to happen now and into the future,” Bishop said.

Read the article here.

Walker Says EPA Rule Would Harm Wisconsin’s Manufacturing Sector

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 49 state legislators and two state agencies have submitted letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressing concerns over the effects of its proposed Clean Power Plan.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a state-based carbon reduction proposal to be implemented using a section of the federal Clean Air Act. The plan sets carbon reduction targets for each state, mostly based on the state’s use of coal as an energy source.

In the plan, the EPA is proposing emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. Specifically, the EPA is proposing state-specific, rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, as well as guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve the state-specific goals. According to the EPA, the rule would continue progress already underway to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in the United States.

Wisconsin’s tailored mandate would mean reducing carbon emissions 34 percent by 2030, representing the 23rd-highest cut in the nation. Walker said the goal would be an especially difficult task because of Wisconsin’s heavy reliance on coal-based energy, which comprises more than 60 percent of statewide energy generation.

In his letter, Walker said the EPA proposal would have a detrimental effect on Wisconsin’s manufacturing-based economy, as well as household ratepayers.

“We have made major investments to ensure we are providing our citizens with reliable, clean, affordable power,” Walker said. “If enacted, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would be a blow to Wisconsin residents and business owners, and I join business leaders, elected officials and industry representatives in opposing this plan. I urge federal officials to carefully consider our concerns and the adverse economic impact this plan could have on our state, as well as the nation.”

According to modeling conducted by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, the current version of the proposed rule would cost the state between $3.3 billion and $13.4 billion. Walker cited a study by Energy Ventures Analysis, which estimates the average Wisconsin household would see its electricity bill increase by more than $485 in 2020. 

Walker has asked the EPA to reconsider the rule based on the impact the rule will have on the cost and reliability of electricity, not only for Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector and the 455,000 people it employs, but for every ratepayer in the state and the nation.

“This rule and other pending rules from the EPA will take Wisconsin backwards,” Walker wrote.

Critics of Walker have noted his lack of support for promoting the use of alternative fuels such as energy from solar and wind sources that would reduce the state’s reliance on coal, as well as investments in mass transit systems to reduce emissions.

A separate letter signed by 49 Republican state legislators questioned the EPA’s authority to enact the new rule.

Another letter was sent to the EPA by PSC commissioner Ellen Nowak and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary Cathy Stepp and chairman Phil Montgomery, also expressing concerns about the agency’s proposed plan. They were appointed to their positions by Walker.

“It is unrealistic to expect the state to submit a complete plan within EPA’s proposed timeframes,” the PSC and DNR officials said.

Read the article here.

ERCOT Warns EPA Rules Could Spur Outages, Rate Hikes

AUSTIN — The state’s electrical grid operator is warning new federal regulations could drive up the price of electricity and potentially lead to power outages in parts of the state.

The last time Texans faced large-scale outages was February 2011. An unusually severe arctic blast caused several power plants to trip offline at the same time electrical demand soared, forcing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to initiate temporary rolling blackouts as they worked to quickly get the situation under control.

“We are monitoring 24/7 the power grid here in Texas that serves 90 percent of the electricity demand,” Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Ken McIntyre told KVUE on a tour of ERCOT’s high-tech control room in Taylor.

Operators at ERCOT coordinate a complex electrical orchestra, ensuring output satisfies demand while monitoring conditions across the state on giant computer screens. When faced with critical power shortages in February 2011, they worked to marshal reserve resources and coordinate power suppliers to keep the electricity flowing.

“Whenever there is a challenge on the grid — so if we have extreme weather and the demand changes rapidly — these guys are ready,” said McIntyre. “They have the tools, they have the data, that they can react as quick as they need to to make sure we can keep those lights on to those customers in Texas.”

The perfect storm of 2011 was a scenario ERCOT forecasters categorize as a “one in ten years” event, which is factored into the grid operator’s long-term strategy. Director of System Planning Warren Lasher says forecasters consider factors such as population growth and usage trends in order to predict how much energy Texans will need down the road.

“Our recent capacity demand reserves report shows that we will have adequate reserves at least for the next three to four years,” said Lasher.

Natural gas accounted for 56.6 percent of Texas’ generation capacity as of May 2014; followed by coal at 23 percent, wind at 13.3 percent and nuclear at 6 percent. In 2013, 40.5 percent of electricity used by Texans came from natural gas and 37.2 percent from coal. Nuclear power accounted for 11.6 percent of use and wind for 9.9 percent.

report released by ERCOT this weekraises concerns over new federal regulations aimed to curb pollution. The report suggests the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan and planned Regional Haze Program are among the most burdensome of a slate of regulations.

If all went into effect, the report warns compliance costs could cause plant owners to close up shop rather than pay for costly upgrades. Coal plants in particular could be hardest hit, and the loss of power from coal could force Texans to rely even more on natural gas — the cost of which ERCOT expects to increase.

The loss of power from any shuttered plants would have to be offset by new projects, which ERCOT says take time to develop. The report poses an alarming scenario in which several plants shut down with little or no warning, leading to localized power outages as grid operators scramble to adjust. It also warns the combined effect of regulations could cause consumer prices to increase 20 percent by 2020.

Yet some of those regulations are only in the proposition stages, and most have compliance deadlines of three or more years. If implemented, the Clean Power Plan would set a final compliance goal of 2030.

“To the extent that these plans are still being developed or implementation plans are being developed, these reliability concerns can get incorporated into those regulations as they’re finalized,” Lasher told KVUE.

At the same time, Lasher predicts the role of renewable energy will increase. Wind power set a single instant record in 2014, supplying 39.4 percent of Texans’ electricity at 2:12 a.m. March 31. Wind power generation is expected to increase from 12,983 MW in 2014 to 20,048 MW in 2015, and nearly double 2013 output by 2017.

“The expectation has to be that these resources are going to become more prevalent on the grid, regardless of what the environment regulation changes are,” said Lasher.

As for now, operators in Taylor will continue to maintain a quiet vigil as another winter begins. Though no major arctic events are in the forecast yet this holiday season, McIntyre says his staff will be ready to keep the lights on if the weather takes another turn for the worse.

“Absolutely,” said McIntyre. “So this Christmas think of the operator that’s watching over you, and ensuring that those Christmas lights stay on.”

Read the article here.

Texas Grid Operator Sees Potential Reliability Fallout from EPA Plans

Texas’ main power grid operator, in its second report in a month on U.S. EPA plans, said yesterday that potential or recently finalized federal environmental rules could affect reliability and costs as substantial coal-fueled generation may retire.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, estimated that as much as 8,700 megawatts of coal-fired capacity could be phased out in future years in light of several possible EPA regulations.

The study incorporated and echoed some of the findings from a report last month on the potential effects of EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants (EnergyWire, Nov. 18). Some environmental groups said the new report didn’t provide a complete picture.

ERCOT’s latest study again included an examination of the Clean Power Plan. The operator also looked at potential effects of Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS); the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule; a regional haze program that seeks to improve visibility in national parks; a cooling water intake plan; effluent guidelines for steam electric power; and a coal combustion residuals plan.

“The results of this study indicate that the Regional Haze requirements and the Clean Power Plan will have significant impacts on the planning and operation of the ERCOT grid,” the operator said in its report. “Both are likely to result in the retirement of coal-fired capacity in the ERCOT region.”

ERCOT said unit retirements might lead to local transmission reliability issues, with a strain possible on the ability to integrate renewable resources.

The operator added that if the anticipated retirement of coal resources happened in a short amount of time “reserve margins in the ERCOT region could reduce considerably, leading to increased risk of rotating outages as a last resort to maintain operating balance between customer demand and available generation.”

ERCOT said the need for reliability might lead to curtailing some renewable resources and possibly to a lack of compliance with deadlines tied to the Clean Power Plan.

A ‘moderate to high risk of retirement’

The report listed potential compliance costs for certain generation. For the cross-state rule, the cost for coal compliance might be a range of 75 cents to $7.25 per MWh, while for gas units it could be 10 cents to $2.75 a MWh. The regional haze cost for coal was shown as possibly $450 to $573 per kilowatt.

ERCOT estimated that 3,000 MW to 8,500 MW of coal-fired capacity in its region would have “moderate to high risk of retirement,” primarily because of costs related to the proposed regional haze program. One MW can serve about 200 to 500 homes, depending on conditions, according to the council.

The study showed possible effects in the short term from the cross-state pollution rule. ERCOT said some regulations might not have big effects across the system, although they might affect the economics of some units.

The Clean Power Plan, ERCOT said, could result in a retirement of as much as 8,700 MW of coal-fueled capacity when considered with other requirements.

EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan seeks a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. Targets vary by state, and the goal for Texas is about a 39 percent decline compared with 2012 in pounds per megawatt-hour.

ERCOT noted that resource owners must tell it no less than 90 days before a certain date that a unit would be mothballed or retired.

“Given the competitiveness of the ERCOT market and the current uncertainty surrounding environmental regulations, it is unlikely that generators would notify ERCOT of potential retirements or units suspensions before the minimum notification deadline,” ERCOT said in the report, noting issues could arise without early notification.

ERCOT suggested the Clean Power Plan would lead to higher energy costs at the wholesale and consumer levels in its region. Costs for consumers might rise as much as 20 percent in 2020, ERCOT said, not including costs related to transmission upgrades, higher natural gas prices, added ancillary services, energy efficiency investments, costs of new capacity, and costs related to retiring or reduced operation of coal-fired capacity.

Report questioned

ERCOT said its study included a survey of generators that use fossil fuels, and it also had modeling on potential effects of some proposals.

Environmental advocates were quick to raise questions yesterday about the latest report, while also pointing out data points they said could help Texas find a path to cleaner energy.

The Sierra Club, in an emailed release, called the study useful but “flawed and incomplete.” It said ERCOT used higher energy costs that weren’t in proportion with what’s expected, adding that it assumed a “worst-case scenario” for the Clean Power Plan.

“It omits data and information critical to making informed decisions about Texas’ energy market,” the Sierra Club said in the release. “It is also pessimistic about the ability of the Texas market to adjust to change, and market participants to develop new solar and wind resources, use natural gas more efficiently, take full advantage of the cost savings from improved energy efficiency, and demand response, and energy storage technology to make the system work.”

Jim Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund said in an emailed statement that ERCOT’s study showed Texas “can go a long way toward complying with the proposed Clean Power Plan by meeting other clean air safeguards” for which companies have had years to prepare.

Another group, the Advanced Energy Management Alliance, said via email that demand response should be an area of focus for ERCOT. The alliance said it would advocate in the coming months for Texas legislation to allow wide use of demand response without constraints on its growth.

Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for ERCOT, said the operator’s role “is to evaluate potential reliability impacts, and that’s what this study does by looking at potential impacts to resource adequacy as well as our ability to operate the transmission grid in a manner that is reliable.”

ERCOT’s report shows there’s work to do and decisions to be made as rules are prepared, said John Fainter, president of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas. He said shareholders and reliability will need to be protected.

“It takes time,” Fainter said of figuring out a plan, adding that “EPA doesn’t send us a magic wand that you can just wave over it.”

Read the article here.

Electric Grid Operations Sound the Alarm: EPA’s Carbon Plan Wreaks Havoc with Reliable and Affordable Electricity

Just like Paul Revere, the experts responsible for managing much of the electric grid in the United States are warning that the EPA’s “too much, too soon” approach to cut carbon emissions by shutting down coal-fired power plants will have disastrous consequences for reliable and affordable electricity. 

According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, or CPP, intends to cut CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Under the EPA proposal, compliance is front-loaded-substantial CO2 reductions (up to 80% of the total requirements) are required as early as 2020. According to the EPA’s Regulatory Impact Assessment, generation capacity would be reduced by between 108 and 134 GW by 2020.  NERC further states that planning, developing and constructing suitable replacement generation resources to maintain adequate reserve margin levels may represent a significant reliability challenge, given the constrained time period for implementation. 

Now, the regional grid operators are weighing in with comments on the EPA’s proposed plan, and those comments are highly critical. The Southwest Power Pool, or SPP, is the organization that operates the electric grid in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and parts of Texas.  SPP submitted comments to the EPA on October 9, 2014.   SPP stated that based on its reliability impact assessment, “it is clear that the proposed CPP will impede reliable operation of the electric transmission grid in the SPP region, resulting in violations of NERC’s mandatory reliability standards and exposing the power grid to significant interruption or loss of load.”  In other words, consumers can expect blackouts and interruptions of service.

SPP also expresses concern with the front-loaded compliance scheme of the CPP:  “Based on SPP’s review of the proposed CPP, EPA has considered neither the cost nor the time required to plan and construct electric transmission facilities.”  According to SPP’s comments, it can take up to eight and one-half years to study, plan, and construct new transmission infrastructure.  Retiring coal plants means that new generating facilities will need to be constructed to replace them, and new transmission lines will have to be constructed to connect the new generating facilities to the electric grid.  SPP says that it is impossible to do all of this in the short time frame required by the CPP.

Finally, SPP states that the proposed CPP will cause higher prices for electricity in the SPP region, “resulting in material adverse impacts on SPP customers.”  What a deal for consumers-blackouts and higher costs for electricity!

Similarly, the Midcontinent Independent System Operation, or MISO, the grid operator for much of the North, Midwest, and South regions of the United States, released an outline of the comments it plans to submit to the EPA.  MISO’s comments echo SPP’s concerns about the CPP’s adverse impact on reliability of the electric grid, costs of compliance, and the impossibility of meeting the CPP’s short time frame for compliance.   

And for good measure, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which operates the electric grid in 75% of the state, also issued a report highly critical of the EPA’s plan.   ERCOT’s primary concern with the CPP is that “the timing and scale of the expected changes needed to reach the CO2 emission goals could have a harmful impact on reliability.”  Another ERCOT concern is that the CPP “will also result in increased energy costs for consumers in the ERCOT region by up to 20% in 2020, without accounting for the costs of transmission upgrades, procurement of additional ancillary services, energy efficiency investments, capital costs of new capacity, and other costs associated with the retirement or decreased operation of coal-fired capacity in ERCOT.” Decreased reliability and higher costs for consumers is not a recipe for success-it is a disaster waiting to happen.  

It is becoming more and more apparent that those who are responsible for providing reliable and affordable electricity believe that the EPA’s plan to prematurely shut down coal-fired power plants will make electricity less reliable and more costly.  The facts simply are not on the EPA’s side.  Instead of pushing forward with an ill-conceived and poorly thought out plan, the EPA should listen to the voices of knowledge and experience, scrap the CPP, and let the electricity experts determine how best to provide reliable and affordable electricity.

By: Terry M. Jarrett

Read the article here.

States Come Together to Oppose Overreaching EPA Coal Mandates

When the comment period expired earlier this month, the EPA received more than 1.6 million responses. The Hill called the response “massive.” Many of these responses were from states concerned that the regulations unduly burden them to shutter the coal power plants that provide citizens with significant amounts of inexpensive energy.

Among them, a group of 17 attorneys general raised concerns, arguing that there were “numerous legal defects” in the proposal – each of which would invalidate the regulations. The attorneys general took specific issue with how this regulation intersects with the Clean Air Act, which they argue gives states authority over power plants.

Yet while the legality of the regulations will surely be litigated in the coming months or years, one thing is certain: these regulations will add billions of dollars in costs for compliance and development of alternative and immature energy sources. For example, Wisconsin estimated that the cost of compliance would total$13.4 billion, while Ohio estimated that its annual cost in 2025 would exceed $2.5 billion.

The costs pile up not just from compliance, but also because coal is a relatively cheap, reliable source of energy. In Oklahoma, coal production will shift to natural gas, a costlier form of energy. In 2012, 38 percent of energy was generated by coal. Following the EPA rules, that figure will fall to 14 percent in 2020. Natural gas would rise from half of production to 74 percent during the same time period – while production from renewable energy would fall.

Oklahoma isn’t an isolated occurrence; these same trends are manifest around the nation. Wisconsin estimates that energy rates will jump 30 percent following compliance. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas says that the regulation will force half of its coal plants to shutter – again not only limiting energy supply, but also endangering the energy grid’s stability.

Meanwhile, the Ohio EPA and Public Utilities Commission simply said that it was not possible to meet the U.S. EPA’s target for carbon reductions. In total, studies estimate that costs could total more than $470 billion.

One ironic note: While the EPA has stringent deadlines for states to meet the its mandatory carbon emissions reductions, news comes this week that the EPA itself may miss its deadline for actually drafting the final regulations.

Simply put, this is not a cost that many consumers can afford. President Obama’s EPA is on a mission to bankrupt coal companies – and these regulations may just do it. Unfortunately, it will also drag consumers and the economy down with it.

Read the full article here.

EPA’s Regulatory ‘Trifecta’ Imperils the Texas Power Grid

Partly because of cheap and abundant natural gas, more than 30,000 megawatts of coal-fired electric power generation have been retired nationwide since 2005 with another 30,000 megawatts likely to go offline in the decade ahead. Still, coal today accounts for nearly 40 percent of all the electricity generated in America. In Texas, coal plants produce about 35 percent of the state’s electric power.

No fan of hydrocarbons, the Obama administration is often accused of waging a “war against coal.” This may or may not be the case. But without question the current “trifecta” of proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations to fight climate change and improve air quality will hasten coal’s demise, especially its use for electric power generation. The result could be impaired grid reliability and higher electricity prices with negligible environmental benefits.

In January, the EPA intends to issue a final rule controlling carbon emissions from new power plants, and by next summer it will issue standards for reducing emissions from existing power plants. The proposed rules would mandate a 38 percent overall reduction in emissions for Texas’ power plants by 2030. These standards are so restrictive they will likely block the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Texas and elsewhere unless they utilize novel and expensive technology to capture carbon. The newest and most advanced coal-fired generators in Texas can’t meet the proposed emissions limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour for new power plants.

An analysis by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s power grid operator, estimates the carbon-emissions rules could force the retirement of half of Texas’ coal-burning capacity while pushing up wholesale electricity rates as much as 20 percent. Because Texas has an increasing demand for electric power, the forced shutdowns of coal plants could affect the power grid. A study by the Southwest Power Pool, which operates in nine states, reaches a similar conclusion.

To make matters worse, on Nov. 24 the EPA rejected parts of Texas’ regional haze plan, with the result that 14 coal-burning generating units in the state will be required to install or improve controls that limit emissions of sulfur dioxide. According to the Texas Commission Environmental Quality, complying with the requirements would cost “more than $2 billion for a negligible increase in visibility” in national parks and wilderness areas while having consequential impacts on the state’s power grid.

The third leg of the “anti-carbon” trifecta is an ambitious plan unveiled by the Obama administration on Nov. 26 to slash ozone pollution. The EPA wants to cut the allowable threshold for ground-level ozone by as much as 20 percent, from 75 parts per billion to 60 parts per billion. According to an analysis by the National Association of Manufacturers, the rule would cost businesses $270 billion a year, making it the most expensive regulation in history. To comply with the proposed standard, states like Texas might have to limit development and operations of energy-intensive industries that use fossil fuels, such as refineries and power plants.

If, as a result of this trifecta of new regulations, coal is eliminated or severely curtailed from the power generation mix, the consequences in terms of higher energy costs and compromised grid reliability could be serious. The new standards could also derail America’s nascent industrial revival while eroding the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk – not a happy prospect in an economy with 9 million workers currently unemployed and millions more underemployed or discouraged from even looking for work.

Improper and excessively costly regulation of greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide and ozone will reduce the diversity of Texas’ and the nation’s energy sources, holding ratepayers hostage to volatile natural gas prices and intermittent renewables like wind and solar.

Policymakers and regulators must acknowledge that America, by itself, can do little to fight climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. today are at a 20-year low, even though the economy is more than 50 percent larger. The only effective way to improve air quality and slow global warming is through a coordinated strategy involving all of the planet’s economies. Otherwise, any marginal reductions in America as a result of shuttering coal plants in Texas and other states will be more than offset by rising emissions in China, India, Brazil, and other fast-growing economies around the world.

 Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute and an adjunct professor of business economics in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

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EPA’s New Rules Will Cost N.D. Dearly

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a barrage of new regulations affecting the electric power supply in the United States. These regulations relate to the operations of power plants, particularly coal-fired power plants, by limiting air emissions, water use and ash disposal.

The various new standards which will take effect between now and 2020 include limits on cross-state transport of fine particulates, mandatory controls to reduce regional haze, regulations on emissions of mercury and chlorine, new standards for local air quality for sulfur dioxide and ozone and, most significantly, limits on emissions of carbon dioxide to address concerns about future global warming.

EPA’s proposed new limits on carbon dioxide emissions represent a radical departure from prior regulations. EPA has used a little-known section of the Clean Air Act, section 111(d), to regulate activities of every state in the country that affect electricity generation. These regulations will include the efficiency of operations of existing coal-fired power plants, how much states allow all of the power plants to operate, the mandated construction of new power plants generating power from wind and solar and the development of programs to reduce electricity use by homeowners and businesses across the country.

The scope of EPA’s regulation of electricity generation and use under this new rule is, simply put, breathtaking.

EPA has grossly under-estimated the costs of its new regulations by making unrealistic assumptions. My company, Energy Ventures Analysis, recently performed a study calculating the expected cost to the country of EPA’s new regulations, including the new regulation of carbon dioxide.

We found that the cost of energy (electricity and natural gas) will increase by $284 billion dollars annually from 2012 to 2020. This increase will show up in utility bills for homeowners and businesses across the country.

The average household will see an increase of $681 per year in its electric and gas utility bills by 2020.

And North Dakota would be especially hard hit by EPA’s restrictions on electric generation by coal-fired power plants.

North Dakota generates 78 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, because of the abundance of low-cost lignite in the state. As a result of its significant usage of low-cost coal, North Dakota residential ratepayers had the second-lowest average electricity rates of any state in 2013.

That will soon change, as EVA projects that the average North Dakota homeowner will see a 33 percent increase in the cost of electricity between 2012 and 2020, in large part due to EPA’s new regulations.

Natural gas prices also will jump, because EPA’s rules force power companies to rely much more heavily on natural gas at the same time that natural gas prices will be under pressure from expanded use by industries.

North Dakota also will lose jobs, both directly at the lignite mines where 1,200 workers produce the lignite which supplies the local power plants, and indirectly at businesses that cannot afford the higher cost of energy.

Recent studies by the organizations that manage the nation’s electric power grids are warning that EPA’s new rules are threatening the reliability of electric power service. Power plants will be forced to close, and the new sources of power which EPA projects (wind and reduced demand) are not as reliable as the existing fleet, which has brought electricity to the countryside.

Ultimately, EPA’s rules promise to increase the cost of energy for everyone and jeopardize the reliability of service.

Schwartz is president of Energy Ventures Analysis, Inc.

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Rep. Cramer: Where Will You Be When the Lights Go Out?

Pushback against the Obama administration’s complex Clean Power Plan—which would reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30% in 2030 from 2005 levels—has mostly focused on its staggering cost. NERA Economic Consulting, for instance, estimates the plan will increase the nationwide average price of electricity 12% to 17% over 15 years. But a pair of recent reports present an even more ominous picture. Not only will electricity cost more, Americans might not be able to get it when they most need it.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), a regulatory authority that monitors the U.S. and Canadian power systems, released a study on Nov. 12 concluding that the long-term reliability of the U.S. grid in some areas is already at risk. Because of rapid shifts to renewable and natural-gas generation, combined with closures of coal-fueled power plants due to existing Environmental Protection Agency regulations, “reserve margins” in the Midwest, New York and Texas have reached dangerously low levels—meaning an increased likelihood of brownouts and blackouts in the coldest weeks of winter and the hottest days of summer.

This analysis of the grid’s long-term reliability left out the potential impact of the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would force even more coal-fueled power plants to close. A separate NERCreport, released one week earlier on Nov. 5, pointed out that the plan’s compliance deadlines for reducing carbon emissions were not realistic when considering how long it takes to build new gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines necessary for new and existing renewable and natural-gas plants to serve customers previously served by coal plants.

More precisely, NERC pointed out that the EPA’s estimates for continuous 1.5% energy efficiency gains each year are unsubstantiated, specifically stating, “this sustainability is not supported by any peer-reviewed or technical studies of energy efficiency potential.” This creates an incentive to close even more coal-fueled power plants to meet carbon-dioxide reduction requirements not actually attained by energy efficiency, posing even greater risks to the availability of electricity throughout the U.S.

These warnings are worth paying attention to. NERC is not a special-interest group. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan body of experts in the engineering and operation of power grids. They are the architects of the miracle we take for granted every time we flip a switch and electricity instantaneously appears from generating sources hundreds of miles away.

EPA personnel are environmental regulators, not electrical engineers, and have no experience in or knowledge of the construction and operation of power grids. But it is inexcusable that the agency failed to heed the advice of those who do have such expertise. The administration’s Clean Power Plan will remake an enormous sector of the U.S. economy, affecting almost every industry and every consumer. It is irresponsible in the extreme that this plan has been put forth without due consideration of the risk it poses to the reliability of the nation’s electricity supply.

Billions of dollars and decades of time have been invested in building an electricity infrastructure that undeniably works. Yet the EPA would replace it with expensive and uncertain measures to accomplish reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions that won’t even move the needle on climate change globally. The consequences could be catastrophic if the transition results in blackouts and brownouts during extreme weather conditions or other emergencies when electricity is needed most.

Of course, the anti-carbon crowd and the current EPA bureaucrats won’t be held accountable if the Clean Power Plan disrupts the future reliability of the grid. In any case, this disruption won’t be felt for several years, most likely when the Obama administration is history. But whoever is occupying the Oval Office, regardless of political party, will not find it a pleasant place to be when the lights start flickering.

Mr. Cramer, a Republican, is a U.S. congressman from North Dakota. As a public-service commissioner in North Dakota from 2003-12, he regulated the electrical utilities industry.

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Officials Fear Proposed EPA Rules Will Have Negative Effect on Power Grid

Gathered under the gold dome of the Capitol Monday, state and energy leaders denounced the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency’s Clean Power Act, saying it would have a negative impact on the state’s leading industry.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Appalachian Power President Charles Patton and West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said 60 pages of comments were submitted to the EPA before the Dec. 1 public comment deadline on the proposal, which would tighten coal emission standards.

State and industry leaders express concerns on myriad subjects, from the proposal’s impact on energy cost increases to power grid reliability. They also questioned the legality of the proposed rules.

“This proposal rule would have a devastating impact on the economy of the state and nation,” Gov. Tomblin said in prepared remarks. “Across West Virginia, we are already seeing real impacts of the current regulatory environment in which industry must operate and we remain concerned that this irresponsible mandate will cause significant negative effects for West Virginians and the nation’s power grid.”

Both Tomblin and APCO’s Patton said the EPA’s proposed “Build Blocks” to assist states in complying with the new rules are unattainable.

During the half hour press conference, leaders continuously spoke of the nation’s power grid and how the proposed EPA rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants may threaten reliable electricity delivery.

Last month, the North American Electric Reliability Corp., the federally designated grid reliability overseer, issued a warning that it “cannot conclude whether the [EPA] targets are achievable or not in all regions and states” without having an adverse effect on the grid.

The NERC report called for a detailed analysis by power companies and regulators to determine what effects the unprecedented switch from coal-fired plants to natural gas would have on the nation’s electric grid.

The term grid is a misnomer. Instead of a grid, the network closely resembles a patchwork quilt stitched together to cover the nation. The aging grid is stretched to capacity and the switch from coal to natural gas would only add to the stress on the network, experts said.

“The power grid is now already at the limit with so many retirements of coal-based load power plants as a result of EPA rules,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairperson Cheryl LaFleur testified before Congress earlier this summer.

She continued the electricity grid was “close to the edge” of breaking.

The commission said switching the grid from coal-fired to natural gas will be precarious and expensive.

In West Virginia, coal-fired plants represented more than 95 percent of the state’s power generation in 2013, according to the West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s Economic Outlook. Nationwide, over the last several years, natural gas has made significant market share gains, rising from 13 percent in 2001 to a high of 33 percent of the total U.S. power generated in 2012. In the same time period, coal’s share of U.S. power generation fell from 53 percent in 2001 to as low as 32 percent in 2012.

However, coal has regained its lead in power generation, with its share raising to as much as 44 percent in the early part of 2014. Meanwhile, natural gas has fallen about 25 percent during the same period.

“Despite these short-term gains, the prospect of coal-fired generation in the long-term remains unfavorable,” the Outlook reads. “Capital costs for new coal-fired plants remain high in comparison to natural gas combined cycle plants..

The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued a report recently predicted that for power plants entering service in 2019, the cost for natural gas will be almost one-third lower than for coal on a per megawatt hour basis.

That has some power company officials expressing fear of being able to keep the electric flowing. Some are worried the EPA’s proposed changes and short timeline for compliance will have a potential impact on power grid reliability.

Mark McCullough, AEP’s executive vice president of generation, said during the 10th annual Energy and Natural Resources Symposium that the proposal ‘really creates a huge impact to our ability — and every utility’s ability — to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible electricity …”

Christine Risch, director of Resource and Energy Economics at Marshall University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said West Virginia’s grids are old, but are not any worse than other states’ since the patchwork quilt of lines are all linked together along the Eastern Seaboard. Many of the state’s power plants are four or more decades old, she said.

West Virginia power plants will remain coal burning for another generation. “This area is not switching to natural gas in the next 20 years,” Risch said.

However, other parts of West Virginia are going forward with plans to build natural gas powered and hydroelectric plants. In Marshall County, in the northern part of the state where oil and natural gas are abundant, construction will start soon an a power plant fueled by natural gas. The plant, called Moundsville Power LLC, recently received a permit to build a 549 megawatt natural gas combined cycle plant, which is expected to employ more than 400 people. This plant would increase the state’s natural gas capacity by 50 percent, county and state officials said.

A hydroelectric plant in Pleasants County is currently under construction, which would add 44 milliwatts of renewable energy.

AEP has said it plans to decommission three coal-fired plants in the northern part of West Virginia over the next several years.

Surrounding states are also decommissioning old coal-fired plant and building non-coal-fired facilities. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey are either in the process of building plants or ready to begin construction of natural gas power plants shortly, said Risch.

In an indication of how the power grid would change due to less coal-fired generation, FirstEnergy, the parent company of 10 power providers, submitted paperwork in Virginia and Pennsylvania Tuesday to upgrade transmission lines and substations to accommodate the retirement of coal-fired power plants.

FirstEnergy said in a press release the $8.3 million project is needed to maintain the reliability of the utility’s system once it retires three coal-fired units by the end of this month.

The Economic Outlook predicts between 2012 and 2015 West Virginia will retire about 1,700 milliwatts, amounting to about 10 percent of the total capacity of the state.

“These job losses could be offset somewhat if [the state] begins to see new natural gas generation being built” in West Virginia, the Economic Outlook reads. “However, it’s likely that the new carbon rules could induce additional coal-fire plants closures during the next five years …”

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MISO, SPP: EPA Clean Power Plan Threatens Reliability, Needs Longer Compliance Schedule

SPP and MISO warned of a reliability crisis if the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan isn’t eased to account for up to 134 GW of generation retirements by 2020, most of them coal-fired units.

“Unless the proposed CPP is modified significantly, SPP’s transmission system impact evaluation indicates serious, detrimental impacts on the reliable operation of the bulk electric system … introducing the very real possibility of rolling blackouts or cascading outages that will have significant impacts on human health, public safety and economic activity,” SPP CEO Nicholas Brown said in his comment to the EPA.

SPP said it conducted a study that assumed new generation was added without additional transmission infrastructure. The model showed that portions of the system in the Texas panhandle, western Kansas and northern Arkansas “were so severely overloaded that cascading outages and voltage collapse would occur and would result in violations of [North American Electric Reliability Corp.] reliability standards,” Brown said.

NERC has expressed similar concerns, commenting that “developing suitable replacement generation resources to maintain adequate reserve margin levels may represent a significant reliability challenge, given the constrained time period for implementation.”

NERC’s 2014 Long Term Reliability Assessment said that plant retirements and limited capacity additions are contributing to diminishing reserve margins in the Midwest, New York and Texas.

SPP said its reserve margins, now at 13.6% above peak demand, would fall to 4.7%, or a reserve margin deficiency of about 4,600 MW, by 2020.

MISO: ‘Untenable and Infeasible’

MISO proposed that the EPA eliminate the interim 2020 performance requirements because the organization’s initial analysis of the rule shows that nearly 80% of total emissions reductions must be met by then.

The EPA’s performance requirements create “an untenable and infeasible timeline for reliable compliance, and would cause states and MISO member companies to make decisions on a severely truncated timeline,” MISO CEO John Bear warned.

Bear said it will take more time to build new generation, natural gas pipelines and other necessary facilities than the interim period allows. Bear pointed to MISO’s Multi Value Projects, which were driven by state public policy requirements such as renewable energy.

The MVP portfolio took five years of planning and shareholder discussion, and even now many of the projects are in development, regulatory and construction phases, he said.

Bear said the soonest a state compliance plan could be approved is 2017, adding that it may not be until 2019 that some states iron out a compliance strategy.

“Since action will be needed by 2020 to achieve the interim emissions performance levels, there will not be nearly enough time to plan for the replacement capacity, transmission upgrades and natural gas delivery infrastructure that will be required to maintain reliability and resource adequacy,” he said.

MISO asked the EPA to push back its proposed carbon dioxide reduction requirements, estimating that 11 GW of plant retirements in its region would need to occur in 2020, “well before sufficient replacement capacity can be placed into service.”

Bear warned that MISO’s planning reserve margin is already under pressure because 10 to 12 GW of coal-fired generation capacity will retire by 2016 to meet the agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).

The erosion of the reserve margin increases the likelihood that MISO will need to manage periods of high demand with “emergency operation procedures,” Bear said. “The probability of a loss-of-load event becomes greater than the MISO region has ever experienced.”

Under the “best circumstances,” new generation capacity would not be available until 2024, Bear told the EPA.

Technical Conference Sought

SPP seeks a series of technical conferences jointly sponsored by the EPA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would focus on the plan’s effects on regional markets and power system reliability. It wants NERC to conduct a “detailed, comprehensive and independent” study of the North American bulk power system, prior to the agency adopting its final rule.

SPP also wants to see the CPP compliance schedule extended by at least five years.

Some commenters, including the Kansas Corporation Commission, told the EPA that the plan is “extremely flawed” and requested that it be withdrawn for a system of emissions reduction that is less complicated and ensures reliability at a reasonable cost.

The KCC said Kansas has approved more than $3 billion of environmental compliance projects for coal-fired generating plants. “To avoid stranded ratepayer investment, specific coal-fired units that were retrofit in compliance with EPA rules should be excluded from the EPA’s calculations in determining a CO2 emissions goal.”

Read the article here.

EPA is in Denial About its Costly Carbon-Reduction Plan: Hal Quinn

While President Barack Obama was doubling down on his climate change regulationsfrom Beijing, his administration was ignoring a powerful backlash against them here at home.

A growing number of experts, including overseers of the nation’s electricity grid, regional power transmission authorities, power plant operators and energy economists, are all warning that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will lead to a less diverse supply of electricity, weaker grid reliability and higher energy bills for all Americans.

These warnings are disturbing enough, but even more so may be the administration’s determination to ignore them. Despite fears of a rutted road ahead, the EPA is blithely steering the nation’s electricity supply into the dark at high speed.

You don’t have to be an energy expert to fault EPA’s carbon-reduction plan for power plants.

Start with its series of complex assumptions about future energy demand, shifts in sources of electricity generation, estimates of more variable power sources and reduced energy use.

Examining these, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation — an international regulatory body charged with assessing the adequacy of our electric power system — concluded implementation will be difficult, if not impossible, without compromising the reliability of the nation’s electricity supply.

That’s because underlying this plan are four assumptions — what EPA ironically calls ‘building blocks’ — that actually cause the plan to crumble.

NERC found that EPA underestimated the number of power plants that will be closed and overestimated the amount of new power sources and increased energy efficiency expected to offset the power generation lost. EPA may be content to just guess whether the lights will stay on or go out but the rest of us should demand certainty.

Meanwhile, across the country, regional power authorities are also sounding alarms.

The Southwest Power Pool warns that EPA’s plan will result in cascading outages and voltage collapse in six of the eight states where it operates the electric grid. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator forecasts that the power reserves needed for 15 Midwestern states will fall below safe margins by 2016, and fall further after that.

The Electric Power Research Institute says EPA uses an overly simplistic analysis of what is actually possible in the real electric power world. The result will be a less diverse and increasingly degraded grid that American households and industries rely on for essential electric power.

American Electric Power of Ohio, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, conducted performance studies that predicted widespread voltage degradation, collapse andcascading outages of the electric grid.

Finally, energy economists are also rounding on EPA’s plan. Recent studies show that, by purposefully replacing lower-cost sources of electricity with costlier and less reliable ones, EPA would more than erase the current $93 billion a year cost advantage that IHS Energy says we now derive from our diverse energy grid. Fuel diversity also cuts the variability of monthly utility bills in half; we would lose that, too.

This accounts for why EPA’s plan is so pricey.  Recent studies by independent economic consultants looked at the two options EPA offers the states for reducing emission rates and found the first would cost consumers at least $407 billion in higher electricity and natural gas prices. A second approach, one EPA prefers, could cost as much as $479 billion.

In short, states can choose between dumb and dumber. There are no low-cost options in the EPA plan.

While EPA remains in denial about the plan’s real costs, the nation’s governors do not have that luxury. Unless they persuade the administration to withdraw it, they’ll be left foisting on their citizens a very risky and costly power plan.

Hal Quinn is the president and CEO of the National Mining Association.

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State Officials, Crow Tribe, Question Proposed Carbon Regulations

BILLINGS – A meeting at the Billings Chamber of Commerce on Friday afternoon focused on concerns over new carbon regulations and how they could impact Montana jobs.

Those new standards would force Montana to reduce carbon emissions and comply with stricter EPA guidelines.

Those on the Crow Reservation call it the “war on coal,” saying the EPA is “playing politics” using the Clean Air Act to sidestep Congress.

What it really boils down to is who gets to call the shots? The states, the tribe, or the federal government? Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and Crow Tribal Leaders believe the EPA has over stepped its bounds.

Coal is the largest source of jobs on the Crow reservation and with unemployment already hovering near 47%, tribal officials fear that number could skyrocket up to 90% as the new EPA regulations impact the market for coal.

The overall concern is that higher energy costs will translate into less jobs. Darrin Old Coyote, the Crow Tribal Chairman said Friday that these new regulations, if implemented, could seriously effect the Crow people.

“This war on coal has been a war on Crow families literally,” said Old Coyote. “Our Crow people rely heavily on jobs out at the mine, they rely on the royalties and revenues that come from coal.”

Fox said Friday that these proposed regulations are a violation of the law, and that they overstep proper boundaries.

“Higher energy costs is a war on the middle class and the poor,” said Fox. “This definitely will have an effect of raising energy costs and the bottom line. I don’t know about you, but most people in Montana try to budget, live within their means, and when you have this kind of onerous overreach by the federal government you can’t plan ahead, and often times you can’t make ends meet.”

Attorney General Fox joined 16 other state attorney generals in filing separate comments on the EPA regulations.

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NMA Recognizes National Miners Day

“The National Mining Association is proud to recognize America’s miners and their indispensable role in powering and building our nation. While one day each year is set aside to honor these highly skilled and dedicated professionals, every American can thank them every day for providing the energy, metals, minerals and materials essential for our way of life.

“Our miners take great pride in what they do, and rightfully so. They are the front-end of the supply chain for what every sector of our economy needs to succeed. Our nation depends upon them getting it done and getting it done right—safely, reliably and efficiently.

“On behalf of all the members of the National Mining Association, I would like to express our gratitude to all miners and their families for all that they do in the service of their country and their fellow miners.”

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Rep. Cramer: Where will you be when the lights go out?

Discussion of the Obama administration’s proposal for reducing carbon emissions from power plants has mostly focused on the staggering cost of this unprecedented regulation. But a pair of reports out this month paint an even more frightening picture. Not only will your electricity cost more, you might not be able to get it when you need it.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation conducted an assessment of the U.S. grid’s current reliability and concluded that parts of the country are already slipping into the danger zone. Because of rapid shifts to renewable and natural gas generation, combined with closures of coal-fueled power plants due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the Midwest, New York and Texas are already reaching dangerous levels of “reserve margins” — generating capacity called upon when electricity demand is high.

That analysis, however, did not include the impact of EPA’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” which would force even more coal-fueled power plants to close.

The NERC’s second report looked at it and the situation became even worse. It pointed out the EPA’s compliance deadlines were not realistic when considering how long it takes to build new gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines (assuming you can afford to do so). The NERC pointed out that the EPA’s estimates for gains from energy efficiency are completely unrealistic, creating an incentive to close even more of the coal-fueled power plants, which have long served as the backbone of the U.S. grid. As last winter graphically showed, we already have a critical shortage of pipelines and electrical transmission lines, so carving away more of the grid’s backbone will have serious repercussions on reliability.

These warnings are worth paying attention to. The NERC is not a special interest group. It is a non-profit, non-partisan body of experts in the engineering and operation of power grids. They are the architects of the miracle we take for granted every time we flip a switch and electricity instantaneously appears from generating sources hundreds of miles away.

On one level, the EPA’s miscalculations are understandable. Its personnel are environmental regulators. They are not electrical engineers with vast experience in the construction and operation of power grids.

On a higher level, the EPA’s miscalculations are inexcusable. The agency didn’t bother to involve real experts in the formulation of the regulations. It had a political agenda and a schedule to keep. Don’t let physics get in the way.

Make no mistake; President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” is not an environmental regulation at all. It’s a proposal to completely remake an enormous sector of our economy which underpins almost every industry and affects every consumer. It is beyond belief that the EPA undertook this vast feat of social engineering without considering whether the real world engineering will even work.

We now stand on the precipice of throwing away billions of dollars and decades of time invested in building an electricity infrastructure that undeniably works. We will try to replace that system with expensive and uncertain measures in order to accomplish reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that won’t even move the needle on climate change globally. We risk catastrophic consequences if the transition results in blackouts and brownouts at times when we most need electricity.

Of course, the people who proposed this rule will have no accountability for those consequences. If allowed to occur, the effects of the “Clean Power Plan” won’t be felt for several years. Pity the next occupant of the Oval Office regardless of the political party. It won’t be a pleasant place to sit when the lights start flickering.

Cramer is a Republican from North Dakota and is the state’s lone representative in the U.S. House. Contact him at cramer.house.gov.

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan Could Force Kentucky Co-op to Shut Coal Plants: CEO

East Kentucky Power Cooperative warned the US Environmental Protection Agency that its proposed Clean Power Plan could force the co-op to either close or sharply curtail two coal-fired generating units it spent nearly $1 billion to build in the past decade.

The generation and transmission co-op, one of the largest in the country, has invested nearly $1.5 billion in recent years to build the Gilbert No. 3 and Spurlock No. 4 units, totaling about 550 MW of capacity, and to retrofit older coal units with more modern pollution controls, Anthony Campbell, the co-op’s president and CEO said in comments submitted to EPA Monday.

Gilbert-3 and Spurlock-4, both equipped with circulating fluidized bed technology, are located at the 1,270-MW Spurlock plant near Maysville in Mason County. East Kentucky owns 1,882 MW of coal-fired capacity and burns about 4.5 million st/year of Illinois Basin and Central Appalachian coal.

East Kentucky spokesman Nick Comer said in an interview Tuesday that the co-op is concerned EPA’s carbon-dioxide-reduction plan could result in the idling of the two newer coal units. Or, he said, it could require East Kentucky to “back them down and operate them at a fraction of their capacity.”

Gilbert-3 and Spurlock-4 “are baseload units and we assume they’re going to run pretty close to capacity over the long term,” he added. If that does not happen, the co-op would be left with substantial “stranded costs” that its customers would be forced to absorb without getting anything in return.

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Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell Opposes EPA’s Power Plant Carbon Emissions Rule

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has joined 16 other state attorneys general in opposing proposed Environmental Protection Agency guidelines aimed at curbing carbon emissions.

In a letter submitted to EPA, the attorneys general charged the new rules violate provisions of the Clean Air Act that give states more authority over power plants. The proposed rules would require 30 percent cuts in emissions below 2005 levels by power plants nationwide by the year 2030, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

“This outrageous plan by the EPA usurps each state’s power to create its own energy generating and energy usage policies according to the best interest of its citizens,” Caldwell said in a news release announcing the letter. “This is a perfect example of out of control federal regulatory overreach in complete disregard for state sovereignty and in complete disregard of Congressional intent.”

The letter cites a recent study, sponsored by large industry groups, that projects a nationwide increase of between $366 billion and $479 billion in consumer energy costs nationwide between 2017 and 2031 as a result of the new rules. That report was sponsored by NERA Economic Consulting on behalf of organizations representing coal-powered power plants, petrochemical manufacturers, railroads, and mining, among others.

EPA has estimated the rule’s cost at $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion a year in 2030, but said it would be offset by $55 billion to $93 billion in healthcare and climate-related savings.

Caldwell joined the attorneys general of Oklahoma, West Virginia, Nebraska, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming in signing the Nov. 24 letter.

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Ohio Power Prices Could Spike With U.S. Plan to Cut Power Plant CO2 Emissions

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio will fight the Obama administration’s plan to dramatically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide the state’s utilities are pumping into the atmosphere.

State regulators on Monday challenged the feasibility and legality of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” that would cut power plant CO2 emissions by 30 percent during the next 15 years, starting in 2020.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio filed a 67-page analysis with the U.S. EPA arguing the federal proposal would spike power prices, hurt industry and destabilize the regional high-voltage grid.

The Ohio EPA filed a parallel analysis with the federal agency questioning the engineering and regulatory assumptions underlying the feasibility of the CO2 reductions, as well as the legality of what the federal authorities are trying to do.

The U.S. EPA last summer proposed specific CO2 reduction targets from old, coal and oil-fired power plants for each state, but said it would allow the states to figure out how to reach the targets.

States that refused, or just could not reach a consensus, would face a federal plan of action.

Closing old coal and oil plants, or increasing their efficiency, or switching to natural gas were suggested options to reduce CO2 emissions.

Requiring utilities to add renewable energy — such as wind farms and solar arrays, or increasing energy efficiency mandates to cut demand were also suggested as other methods to comply.

The U.S. EPA also offered to look more favorably on regional carbon dioxide reduction plans developed by two or more states.

The PUCO analysis did not include a full-blown multi-state approach.

Ohio regulators are not enthused about any of it of what the U.S. EPA is proposing.

Their bottom line: It’s too expensive, violates federal law and ignores the fact that the state’s electric utilities have already cut emissions by more than 20 percent compared to 2005 levels.

The PUCO’s analysis argued that if Ohio utilities were to rely more on their gas-fired power plants, many of which are just combustion turbines, the price of wholesale power in Ohio could increase by 39 percent over the next decade.   That would add $2.5 billion to electric bills in 2025 alone, the agency argued.

“The PUCO … has serious concerns about [the proposal’s] impact on the delivery of reliable and affordable power to Ohioans,” spokesman Matt Schilling wrote in a note releasing the agency’s response. “Our comments to the U.S. EPA highlight numerous concerns, including billions of dollars of added costs to Ohio’s utility ratepayers.”

In a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy included with the Ohio EPA’s comments, Director Craig Butler pointed out that Ohio’s utilities cut CO2 from 138 million tons in 2005 to 107 million tons in 2013.

Planned shutdowns of additional Ohio power plants that do not meet new mercury emission rules will cut CO2 emissions nearly another 34 million tons over the next two years, Butler wrote.

“Even after this dramatic reduction, U.S. EPA demands additional reductions that will unnecessarily threaten electric reliability, reduce manufacturing and coal mining employment and increase electric rates,” he complained.

The state EPA’s analysis also argues that the way in which the federal EPA is attempting to regulate the CO2 emissions — by bullying the states — is not legal. That dovetails with Ohio’s already under way legal challenge to the rules.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office is one of 18  attorneys general questioning the U.S. EPA’s authority to set CO2 emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants. They argue that federal law gives regulatory authority over power plants to the states.

Similarly, the PUCO’s response dismissed the engineering studies the EPA used to argue that the efficiency of old coal-fired power plants, known as “heat rate” in the industry, could be increased by 6 percent.

The PUCO further argued that its predicted 39 percent increase in power prices would not be the only impact on customer wallets. Consumers probably would see heating costs rise as well, the agency suggested.

In the PUCO’s view, a massive switch to gas-fired power plants also would require the construction of new pipelines to deliver gas to power plants — costs that would also filter down to ratepayers.

The PUCO’s destabilization conclusion appears to be based largely on a report released earlier this fall by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

NERC, an industry group charged with maintaining reliability suggested a massive switch from coal to gas should be carried out over decades rather than a few years in order to minimize the impact on the grid.

The PUCO’s technical analysis spends little time analyzing the federal argument that states ought to beef up their mandates requiring utilities to help customers adopt, buy and install energy efficient lighting and other technologies, projects which would reduce demand for electricity.

That’s a strategy that Ohio Republican lawmakers in May knocked out for at least two years with the passage of a bill freezing the state’s annually increasing efficiency and renewable benchmarks through 2016.

Environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, have been arguing since June that those standards — along with renewable energy from solar and wind projects — alone would enable Ohio to meet the federal CO2 reductions without all the switching to natural gas.

“Ohio’s agencies are largely focused on perceived cost impacts of the Clean Power Plan,” wrote NRDC attorney Samantha Williams in an email response.

“But these are unlikely to materialize unless the state gets serious about reinstating its clean energy standards. Energy efficiency and renewables have proven eminently successful at jump-starting Ohio’s economy and reducing consumer energy bills – not to mention cutting carbon from the power fleet. The state should be looking more to these tools that are already at its disposal.”

Read the article here.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: EPA Clean Power Plan Bad for Business

The EPA closed public comment on its Clean Power Plan on Dec. 1 after receiving more than 1.6 million comments. Among them was one from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is opposing the increased regulation to reduce CO2 emissions.

The plan would cut carbon emissions from the power sector approximately 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and sets out state-specific goals for lower carbon emissions.

The Republican governor said the proposed rule would have a detrimental effect on Wisconsin’s manufacturing-based economy, as well as household ratepayers. Those ratepayers, however, already are seeing rate increases from the utilities under Walker’s watch.

Walker, in his statement, said, “We have made major investments to ensure we are providing our citizens with reliable, clean, affordable power. If enacted, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would be a blow to Wisconsin residents and business owners, and I join business leaders, elected officials, and industry representatives in opposing this plan. I urge federal officials to carefully consider our concerns and the adverse economic impact this plan could have on our state, as well as the nation.”

Walker said the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which recently approved a rate hike for Milwaukee area electricity customers, said the proposed rule would cost the state $3.3-$13.4 billion. Walker also said a study by Energy Ventures Analysis estimated the average Wisconsin household would see its electricity bill increase by more than $485 in 2020.

The statement said the PSC and the state Department of Natural Resources “have spent months reviewing the rule and soliciting input from all affected parties, since its proposal in June of this year.  Among other items, their review uncovered a number of flaws with the development of the emission rate goals, which penalizes states that have taken early action to reduce CO2 emissions by asking them to reduce emissions more than states that have done less. Wisconsin has invested approximately $10.5 billion over the past 15 years to help reduce CO2 emissions, increase renewable energy usage and energy efficiency, and install air pollution control equipment.”

Walker asked the EPA to reconsider the rule.

Read the article here.

Montana PSC: Clean Power Plan Based on ‘Old World Definition’ of Power Grid

The Montana Public Service Commission has told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that assumptions in the proposed Clean Power Plan are based on an ‘old-world definition’ of the transmission grid that does not accurately represent the realities of RTO divisions, according to TransmissionHub.

In Nov. 21 comments submitted to the EPA, the PSC suggested that the final rule include a ‘safety valve’ feature that would permit a state to submit its compliance plan to the regional transmission planning body for reliability review.

The PSC outlined its concerns about the draft plan in a 14-page letter that expressed the PSC’s opposition to the plan “in its entirety.”

“The EPA applies a strained interpretation to an already tenuous regulatory model,” the PSC said in its letter. “The proposed regulation leaves the [PSC] with less discretion to regulate electric utilities, even though public utility commissions are best situated to make several of the decisions contemplated by the proposed rule. This raises basic concerns of federalism.”

As part of its review, the PSC questioned whether emissions reductions in the draft plan have been adequately demonstrated through transmission reliability modeling, noting that reliability analyses of proposed reductions for theWestern Interconnection do not exist at this time.

The PSC cited EPA’s presumption that the generation from the Big Stone coal facility in Big Stone, S.D., would be displaced by production from the Deer Creek natural gas facility near Elkton, S.D. That presumption, the PSC said, is flawed because the dispatch for those facilities is performed by different grid operators.

While interrelation between those operators does exist, the PSC noted that coordinated dispatch of Big Stone and Deer Creek would require a reorganization of how the two operators’ markets interact.

In comments that align with the observations of other industry representatives, the PSC said proposed changes in the draft plan pose a significant threat to grid reliability and the EPA should subject the draft plan to modeling that meaningfully studies its impact on system reliability.

Since September, the Southwest Power Pool, ERCOT, NERC, the Midcontinent ISO, and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) have expressed concern about the affects the draft plan will have on reliability without time for further analyses and significant financial investments in system upgrades. The comment period for the draft plan closes on Dec. 1.

Addressing renewable energy goals in the draft plan, the PSC suggested that the EPA acknowledge that increases inrenewable energy will not occur on a linear path in states with existing renewable energy plans, given operational, dispatch, and transmission challenges. The PSC explained that renewable energy growth in Montana and neighboring states is limited by transmission system constraints and reliability.

“WECC has modeled scenarios in which large amounts of remote renewables are located in Montana and Wyoming but serve out-of-state customers,” the PSC said. “In those studies, the path constraints of the transmission lines from Montana to the Northwest were pushed to the limit, resulting in energy generated but not transmitted nearly half of the time.”

Ultimately, the PSC noted, the draft plan fails to identify the monetary costs and timeline delays that are associated with constructing or upgrading transmission lines and building sufficient generators to ensure the provision of ancillary services to renewable generators. These costs, it added, have slowed renewable energy development in Montana.

For example, a proposed upgrade to the 500-kV Colstrip transmission line to accommodate 550 MW to 900 MW of transmission capacity for potential new wind projects in the state would cost $240 million. The Colstrip line connects the Colstrip coal-fired generation units in eastern Montana to the Pacific Northwest grid.

The PSC said the cost for this upgrade is a “formidable hurdle” for wind energy developers. The Bonneville Power Administration is leading development of the line upgrade. A draft environmental impact statement (EIS) is due this year, with the final EIS and record of decision due in late 2015.

In addition to concerns about the draft plan’s framework, the PSC asked the EPA for clarification of state authority to execute and enforce the final rule. Specific to transmission, the PSC asked what authority states will have to compel multi-state transmission organizations to alter their dispatch or operating procedures and compel compliance by generation or transmission facilities that are financed or administered by the federal government.

Read the article here.

Ohio Agencies Oppose U.S. Plan for Power-plant Carbon Cuts

A federal proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants nationwide is unachievable in Ohio and would unfairly raise electricity rates for consumers, the state Environmental Protection Agency and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio said yesterday.

In comments sent to the U.S. EPA about itsplan to cut mercury and greenhouse-gas emissions, both state agencies said the plan would not work in Ohio. Yesterday was the last day to submit comments on the federal plan.

The PUCO “has serious concerns about its impact on the delivery of reliable and affordable power to Ohioans,” Matt Schilling, a commission spokesman, said in a statement. “Our comments to the U.S. EPA highlight numerous concerns, including billions of dollars of added costs to Ohio’s utility ratepayers.”

The commission said that changing priorities from the economic — how cheaply electricity can be distributed — to the environmental — the growing threat of climate change — could increase wholesale electricity prices in Ohio by 39 percent. The commission estimated that would cost Ohio’s power consumers $2.5 billion in 2025.

In June, U.S. EPA director Gina McCarthy announced a federal proposal that some say is the most sweeping plan to address emissions that affect climate change. The plan would cut carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels within 16 years.

Target reductions vary across the country; in Ohio, the proposed federal goal would cut carbon emissions by 28 percent from 2005 levels. At the time of the announcement, Ohio’s power plants already had cut their greenhouse-gas emissions by 16.5 percent from 2005 levels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The plan prompted lawsuits by Ohio and other states that rely heavily on coal. Ohio burned more coal than all but five other states last year, and it routinely leads the country in power-plant emissions.

The U.S. EPA is set to finalize the rule next year.

The Ohio EPA, in its comments on the plan, said the targets are unachievable in Ohio, where companies that operate coal-fired power plants already have installed advanced air-pollution controls.

The Ohio EPA warned that Ohio’s power grid could become unreliable if the rule were approved as proposed.

But the Ohio Environmental Council, which submitted comments to the U.S. EPA in favor of the plan, said Ohio’s targets should be easy to achieve.

“All that’s required by Ohio is to reduce the carbon emissions by a certain amount; how we get there is up to the state,” said Brennan Howell, director of clean energy and climate campaigns for the council, an environmental advocacy group.

“Ohio can do more with renewable energy than the U.S. EPA projection. Ohio can do more with energy efficiency than the U.S. EPA projection. … I think we’ve got the tools to get it done in a way that protects human health and economic opportunity.”

Read the article here.

PUC Calls on EPA to Pull Back CO2 Rule

The Texas Public Utility Commission called a new EPA law capping carbon dioxide emissions by power plants “unworkable” and an “unlawful intrusion” in comments submitted to the federal government Monday.

“The rule establishes completely unachievable timelines for this fundamental remaking of the power industry, creating great threats to the ability of Texas to manage and operate our electricity system,” the power agency wrote.

Under President Barack Obama’s climate change initiative, the Texas power industry must cut carbon emissions 38 percent by 2030. Last month, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s grid, estimated the law could force the closure of close to half of Texas’ coal plants and raise power rates in Texas by as much as 20 percent.

Of the state’s total power generation, 37 percent comes from coal plants.

Since the EPA’s announcement of the carbon cap this summer, Texas officials have been almost unanimous in their opposition. They are part of a national debate that is pitting environmentalists against a power industry that says the law would force such a radical shift that it could lead to power shortages.

In the 93-page document submitted Monday, the PUC said if the EPA was not willing to rescind the law entirely it should consider removing a 2020 interim goal.

“In order for Texas to meet its interim mandate, approximately 77% of its [carbon] reductions must be accomplished by 2020,” the agency wrote.

Read the article here.

EPA Flooded with Climate Rule Comments

The Obama administration has received more than 1.6 million comments on its proposed rule to limit carbon emissions on power plants.

The massive number of comments submitted before Monday’s deadline highlights the intense interest from both environmental groups hailing the rule as an historic effort to curb climate change, and business and energy groups who argue the sweeping regulations will choke the economy.

The plan is intended to reduce the power sector’s carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Business groups opposed to the rules cited an industry-commissioned study from October finding it would cost at least $366 billion to implement. They also said it would have almost no impact on global greenhouse gas emissions.

Some states joined in bashing the rule. Seventeen attorneys general told the agency they identified “numerous legal defects” with the proposal, each of which could individually invalidate it.

“EPA’s proposal attempts to use the Clean Air Act to override states’ energy policies and impose a national energy and resource-planning policy that picks winners and losers based solely on EPA’s policy choices, forcing states to favor renewable energy sources and demand-reduction measures over fossil fuel-fired electric production,” said the attorneys general, representing states such as Oklahoma, West Virginia and North Dakota.

Conservative lawmakers agreed.

“This unworkable rule serves to raise consumer energy prices, jeopardize reliability and hamper long-term investment toward new technology that allows for developing our natural resources with good environmental stewardship,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) wrote, saying it must be rescinded.

Green groups argued the rule was an important step forward but said the Obama administration could do more.

“Our analysis shows that we can cut carbon pollution even more with substantially the same costs as EPA’s plan, but with very, very large public health and climate protection benefits that dwarf those costs,” David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) climate program, told reporters Monday.

With a few tweaks, the group argued the EPA could cut power plant carbon emissions by 44 percent in 2030, compared with the 30 percent in the EPA’s proposal, with little extra cost.

The Sierra Club also pushed for a stronger rule.

“The urgency of the climate crisis and the imperative for the U.S. to lead global efforts to reduce climate pollution demands stronger action,” the group said. “EPA must strengthen the [rule] and ensure that the rule is maximally effective.”

The total number of comments received by the EPA is less than the 2.5 million submitted on the agency’s two proposals for carbon limits for new fossil fuel power plants, each of which netted about 2.5 million comments.

It’s also less than the Federal Communications Commission’s 3.9 million responses to its proposal to impose new rules on the Internet known as “net neutrality.”

Business interests told the EPA that its proposal is clearly illegal and would destroy the coal industry while increasing costs immensely for energy-intensive industries like manufacturing, creating a ripple effect throughout the economy.

The Partnership for a Better Energy Future, an ad-hoc business coalition, said the proposed carbon reduction plan “is incompatible with numerous practical and technical aspects of America’s electricity system and would represent a vast expansion of the agency’s regulatory reach into the authority held by states and other federal regulatory agencies.”

The coal industry, which expects to take a big hit under the EPA’s plan, also voiced opposition.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity argued that the Clean Air Act prohibits the EPA from regulating carbon from power plants, since it already regulates other pollution from those same facilities.

“In addition to being illegal and technically flawed, the [rule] is the most expensive environmental regulation ever proposed for the power sector,” the coal group said.

“Put simply, the administration has decided to bypass Congress in implementing far-reaching executive branch energy and environmental policy goals,” wrote the National Mining Association.

“Basic separation of powers principles and the dictates of the [Clean Air Act], however, prohibit the administration from doing so.”

Green groups argue there is broad public support for the EPA rules.

As evidence, they argue that 8 million comments in favor of cutting carbon pollution by power plants have been filed if you add up the current comments along with those made on two previous rules that would reduce carbon emissions by newly built power plants.

Read the article here.

Wyoming PSC Chairman: EPA’s CO2 Rules Unrealistic

 — New rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions nationwide could force utilities to have to shut down four coal-fired power plants in Wyoming years before they would be obsolete otherwise, said the chairman of the Wyoming Public Service Commission.

The proposed rules overestimate utilities’ ability to improve the efficiency of coal-fired power plants and overstate the potential growth of renewable power, Wyoming Public Service Commission Chairman Alan Minier told U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy in a Nov. 21 letter.

The requirement for Wyoming to cut carbon emissions 19 percent would force closure of the Naughton, Dave Johnston, Jim Bridger and Wyodak power plants by 2030, Minier wrote.

“I’m trying not to sound alarmist, but it seems to me the scale at which this would affect us, because we are exporters of electricity and coal, I think it will impact our economy in a materially adverse way,” Minier told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1zFS7jc ). “The biggest problem is the target because it is too aggressive for us.”

The EPA seeks a 30-percent cut in carbon emissions nationwide from 2005 levels by 2030. EPA officials have argued that efficiency improvements in the rules would offset higher energy costs. The plan attempts to curb carbon emissions through improved efficiency of coal-fired power, increased natural gas-fired and renewable power, and better energy conservation.

Almost 90 percent of the electricity generated in Wyoming, the top coal-producing state, comes from burning coal. Wyoming exports considerably more electricity than it uses in state.

Yet Wyoming would not receive credit for large renewable energy projects such as the planned 2,000- to 3,000-megawatt Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm in Carbon County, Minier said. Credit for such projects would go toward the carbon targets of the states using that electricity, he said.

Richard Garrett, an energy analyst with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said Minier’s comments don’t address what to do about climate change, which is the whole reason for the plan.

Wyoming could implement a renewable-power standard that would require a certain percentage of electricity to come from low-carbon sources, Garrett said. Meanwhile, the plan could boost demand for cleaner-burning natural gas. Wyoming is among the top gas-producing states, he said.

“Wyoming derives significant revenues from the sale of that gas,” Garrett said. “That looks like a win-win for the state and the environment.”

Read the article here.