Monthly Archives: March 2015

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Can Hard-working Louisiana Families Afford EPA ‘Clean Power’ Plan?

Via NOLA.com:

I have a very strong feeling for the hard-working families of Louisiana. In my professional life, I’ve traveled throughout the state many times. I remember in particular the hard work of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches, and I also look back with pride at how we were able to reopen the Dr. King Charter School in New Orleans only two years after that disaster had occurred.

As I picture my friends in Louisiana, I’m struck by the continuing struggle that many of them face in finding financial security. It’s the same worry that I have for many low-income and minority communities throughout the nation, the ones who are often still eking out a living, barely making it from paycheck to paycheck.

When I consider my friends in Louisiana, I’m keenly aware that the state’s economic picture remains mixed.  According to the federal government, both Louisiana’s unemployment rate (6.7 percent) and poverty rate (19.2 percent) continue to be above the national average. Median household income throughout the state has actually declined since 2007. And, while Louisiana’s private-sector employers have added 152,900 jobs since February 2010, that still represents the national low point for private-sector employment.

As many Louisiana residents work hard to pay their bills, they do enjoy one bit of good news when it comes to their wallets: The state ranks number two in the nation when it comes to affordable electricity.

But what if each Louisiana household suddenly saw its annual electricity and natural gas bills increase by more than $750?  What would that mean to so many families who are already fighting to make ends meet?

I ask this because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving toward new power plant regulations for the nation. Intended as a step toward addressing climate change, the EPA wants to curb carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants and wants governors across the country to close their coal-fired plants.

The EPA plan requires Louisiana to significantly reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, which would change the way utilities produce electricity.  Keep in mind that 29 percent of electricity in Louisiana is generated by coal.

Such a move could hit Louisiana hard, adversely impacting the state’s present affordable energy rates.  Many other states also depend on coal, which means that the affordability of electricity for millions of Americans is at stake.

As I see it, the problem with the EPA’s plan is that the power plants in question often provide the largest portion of our electricity, and usually at the most affordable rates. No matter one’s views on the climate issue, the EPA’s approach is simply too rough. There is already a consensus among energy experts who oversee the nation’s public utilities that the EPA plan will cut power production without offering reliable alternatives, and with almost no actual impact on climate.  The only tangible result will be a significant jump in the cost of electricity for both homes and businesses.

I understand the intended reasoning of the EPA plan, namely to cut carbon emissions.  But we already have it within our power to move toward a cleaner environment without causing harm to lower income Americans.  Advanced technologies are helping us achieve lower emissions.  And U.S. power plants are already far cleaner than factories and power plants in Asia.

Paying for electricity is not a discretionary expense.  The poor and the elderly on fixed incomes already pay an out-sized portion of their limited budget in order to have heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.  And they already have fewer dollars to pay for these necessities.  My concern is for their survival and well-being.

We can get to a cleaner environment without victimizing those who are already struggling financially.  And so, before the EPA adopts these measures, it should think twice about pursuing extreme rules that will have a negligible environmental impact, but could bring great pain to hard-working everyday Americans.

Charles Steele Jr. is president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

See the article here.

St. Louis Business, Political Leaders Criticize EPA Carbon Regs

Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

On the eve of a visit to St. Louis by federal electricity regulators, a panel hosted by the St. Louis Regional Chamber sent a clear message from Missouri’s business and political establishment: federal rules designed to cut carbon emissions threaten the state’s economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants elicited no support on Monday from the four-person panel, which included a former state utility regulator and representatives from Missouri business lobbying groups.

The rules don’t appear to be popular with Missouri Democrats, either. Panelist and House Minority Leader Rep. Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, called EPA’s plan a “step too far” and said he worried it would drive up electricity prices and stifle growth.

The Chamber panel was organized a day before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hosts a conference in Berkeley on the EPA proposal, which aims to curb heat-trapping carbon dioxide linked to climate change. FERC regulates the national electric grid, and the Tuesday conference will examine risks to grid reliability in the Midwest due to changes in power generation spurred by the EPA rule.

Even without the rule, almost 13 gigawatts of coal power are expected to shut down this year, although a boom in wind, natural gas and solar will more than offset those retirements, according to the Energy Information Administration. Thousands more megawatts of coal generation are expected to shut down should the EPA finalize the carbon regulations.

After the Monday forum, a statement from public relations firm LS2group, which helped organize the Chamber panel, quoted Hummel saying FERC should “fight for the workers in Missouri who will suffer the most should EPA’s proposal be finalized as written.”

“We cannot afford another self-inflicted wound and regulatory mandate that will destroy jobs and crush economic opportunity for the middle class,” Hummel is quoted as saying in the release.

Hummel’s consternation about the EPA proposal isn’t unique among high-ranking Missouri Democrats. While stopping short of outright criticism, Gov. Jay Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill, both Democrats, have both found fault with the rule’s interim carbon dioxide targets. They suggest utilities should be given more time to comply.

Ameren Missouri, the largest affected utility in the state, also says it could save billions of dollars if it had until 2035, five more years, to reach the final EPA targets. However, it maintains the rules are illegal.

The federal rules are scheduled to be finalized this summer and states will have another year to draft a plan. EPA has argued its proposal will give states flexibility to craft their own plans for carbon dioxide reductions.

But Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri, told attendees of the Chamber forum that was little consolation. “They really said, ‘Do you want to die by lethal injection or firing squad?’”

Terry Jarrett, a member of the Missouri Public Service Commission and former general counsel to Republican Governor Matt Blunt, argued market forces are already leading to cleaner energy production. States like Missouri, he also pointed out, have passed their own laws requiring a certain portion of electricity to come from renewable.

“The market is already taking care of a lot of these problems and the states are taking care of a lot of these problems,” he said.

Jay Atkins, general counsel of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said “just the prospect” of the EPA rules are stymieing investment among his group’s members. That, he said, “causes recessions.”

See the article here.

Clean Power Plan a Mistake

Via The Shreveport Times:

Louisiana is at an economic crossroads. After outperforming much of the nation over the last few years, the state’s economy has been hit hard by the sudden drop in oil prices. Unemployment is up and the state is facing a growing budget gap. Times are hard and the Obama administration is making them harder.

At the president’s direction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced its proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent from America’s electric power plants by 2030. The potential cost to consumers is staggering.

Under the plan, Louisiana is expected to reduce its emissions 39 percent — a reduction target greater than four out of five states. This mandated transformation of the state’s electricity system is going to be exorbitantly expensive. A recent economic study of the plan concluded that it will force the price of electricity in Louisiana to jump by at least 16 percent. That forecast assumes that Louisianans will substantially cut back on the amount of electricity they use. If they can’t, prices could skyrocket by close to 25 percent.

A jump in the cost of electricity will not only hurt the competiveness of businesses in Louisiana but it’s going to take more precious dollars out of the pockets of the folks who can least afford it. In Louisiana, 56 percent of families spend over one-fifth of their income on energy. And nearly a third of the state’s households rely on Social Security to make ends meet. When the price of a necessity, like electricity, goes up, it’s low-income folks and people on fixed incomes, such as our seniors, who feel it the most.

Not a single Louisianan, not a single American, should have to decide whether they will have to go without energy, food, or needed medications because policies dreamed up in Washington have pushed electricity prices artificially high.

There was a time when the nation’s energy policy focused on providing affordable and secure energy for every American. Today, those priorities have been replaced by a misguided focus on reducing emissions. For all the talk about getting our economy back on track, about rebuilding our manufacturing sector and tackling income inequality, the Obama administration and EPA are pursuing a regulatory agenda that can only send us backwards.

Environmental considerations deserve their place at the table but the Obama administration is asking so much for what, exactly? The U.S. cannot reduce global carbon emissions by itself. We are not even the world’s largest carbon emitter. China owns that title. Even if we were to follow through with the Clean Power Plan, and its exorbitant costs, our emissions reductions would be quickly overwhelmed by surging emissions from developing economies overseas.

President Obama and his supporters hope that by implementing the Clean Power Plan other nations will sacrifice their economic growth as well and follow our lead. That’s wishful thinking and not the sound analysis that should underpin a policy that could do so much economic harm.

Louisiana has joined 12 other states in suing the federal government to stop it from imposing its emissions mandate on the states. Your elected officials need to hear your support on this critically important issue. Tell them the Clean Power Plan is a mistake we simply cannot afford.

Jim Martin is the chairman of the 60 Plus Association. Founded in 1992, 60 Plus is a non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach to seniors issues. Learn more at 60plus.org.

See the article here.

 

EPA’s New Rules to Mean Higher Energy Prices

Via The Marietta Daily Journal:

The drop in gas prices might have you feeling pretty good about the cost of energy lately. But if Washington has its way, Georgians might be paying a lot more for the energy they depend on.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced what it calls the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. The plan would require a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from electricity production by 2030. That’s an ambitious and costly target to achieve. But the EPA wants to impose even bigger cuts on Georgia: 44 percent. That’s the sixth-largest emissions cut of all the states.

Cutting power plant emissions by almost half will be incredibly expensive, and Georgia’s consumers will pay the price. In a recent study, expert economists predicted the EPA’s plan would drive up the cost of annual electricity and natural gas bills for an average Georgia household by more than $60 per month by 2020. 

That’s a tough hit to the budget for Georgia’s middle class families. But it could be devastating for our most vulnerable communities, including the state’s 1 million plus seniors. 

Many of the seniors I work with every day are already living too close to the edge. They have to budget carefully to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. A big increase in the price of something as basic as electricity would strain those budgets to the breaking point. 

What will seniors have to do without to pay for Washington’s plan? Heat? Air conditioning? Some meals? Needed medications? Those are decisions nobody should have to make, let alone our retirees.

Even those who can afford to take the financial hit won’t be immune from the disruptions likely to result from the EPA’s proposed mandate. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a not-for-profit regulatory group tasked with ensuring that North America’s power systems are reliable, has expressed concerns about the Clean Power Plan’s impact. Because it will inevitably force some power plants to close and disrupt the balanced mix of energy supplies we use to generate our electricity, the plan could make electricity supplies — something Georgians can take for granted today — less reliable.

I’m sure the bureaucrats who dreamed up the Clean Power Plan have the best intentions and think their plan will be good for the country. But they seem to have forgotten about the very real human cost.

Is making cuts to carbon emissions worth forcing seniors to choose between keeping their homes comfortable during the coldest nights of the winter or the hottest days of the summer and food? Should someone barely getting by on Social Security have to foot the bill for action on climate change?

Maybe before the EPA’s regulators finalize their new rules later this year, they should get out of the office, get out of Washington and talk to the very people their sweeping mandate will affect most. 

Then they might realize that this isn’t just about abstract numbers and targets. It’s about real people and potentially heart-breaking choices. 

Jim Martin is the Chairman of the 60 Plus Association

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – EPA s new rules to mean higher energy prices 

GOP Bill Delays Climate Rule, Gives States Veto

House Republicans are preparing a bill that would delay implementation of the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants and let state governors veto compliance plans.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s panel on energy and power, unveiled the draft legislation Monday that he worked on with Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the full committee chairman, and other members.

The draft bill would delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule until all court challenges are over and let governors block any plans to implement the regulation — whether from the state or imposed by the EPA — if they think it would significantly increase electricity rates or harm reliability.

“This rule is particularly controversial. It’s unprecedented in the power that they’re trying to grab here from the states, and they’re significantly changing the way they are looking at compliance with these [carbon dioxide] regulations in each state,” Whitfield told reporters Monday.

Whitfield said while Republicans want to stop the rule altogether, this plan is more likely to pass.

“This legislation won’t stop it, but it does give courts the opportunity to render a decision,” Whitfield told reporters Monday.

The federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear challenges to the proposed rule next month from a coal company and a dozen states.

Once the rule becomes final, lawmakers and advocates expect more litigation, including arguments at the Supreme Court. Whitfield’s bill would delay the rule until all challenges have been decided.

The GOP also wants to protect low electricity prices and reliability, Whitfield said.

“For those states where the governor thinks it will have an adverse impact on the ratepayers and the reliability and he or she can just talk to any groups they want to, consult with whoever they want to,” Whitfield said, “if they have a finding that it will have a significant adverse effect on them, then they can get a safe harbor out of having to comply with this state implementation plan and go from there.”

Beyond delaying the rule and stopping rate increases, the bill would accomplish Republicans’ goal of increased transparency for the climate rule, Whitfield added.

“The mere fact that we’re introducing a bill, we’ll have hearings on it, we’ll have markups on it, we’ll have regular order for amendments — we want the American people to be fully aware of the implication that this rule will have on electricity rates, reliability and so forth,” he said.

“We think it’s important to have a full airing of the issue, full transparency, so everybody’s pretty much aware of the impact of what’s going on.”

The rule, which the EPA wants to make final this summer, aims to slash the power sector’s carbon emissions 30 percent in 2030 from 2005 levels.

It is the most significant government action that’s been proposed to fight climate change, but businesses and Republicans say it would cost far too much, and are fighting it tooth and nail.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, welcomed Whitfield’s legislation.

“I appreciate Rep. Whitfield’s continued leadership on addressing the president’s costly climate regulations,” he said. “The discussion draft establishes a sound framework for providing the type of regulatory relief the American people deserve.”

Inhofe said he has worked with House lawmakers on how to fight the EPA rule, and would continue to do so.

Last year, Whitfield and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sponsored legislation that would have allowed Congress to set the implementation timeline for the EPA’s carbon rules. That bill passed the House but did not move in the Senate.

Whitfield’s panel will hold its first hearing on the draft bill April 14.

See the article here.

 

EPA Clean Power Plan Spells Trouble for Iowa

Via The Gazette.

American households and businesses currently reaping the benefits of low oil prices may soon lose them to higher electricity bills. For this, we can thank an Environmental Protection Agency.

A growing number of energy experts, including overseers of the nation’s electricity grid, regional power transmission authorities, power plant operators and energy economists are all warning that the EPA Clean Power Plan will lead to higher energy bills for consumers and a less reliable electricity grid for the country.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation — an international regulatory body charged with assessing the adequacy of our electric power system — says implementing EPA’s plan will be difficult, if not impossible, without weakening the reliability of the electricity supply. That’s because states are asked to reduce their use of affordable electricity and transform their electricity grid based on four assumptions about future energy demand, shifts in sources of electricity generation, adding more variable power sources and reduced energy use.

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

Then there are the costs. When independent economic consultants recently examined EPA’s plan, they found Iowa’s wholesale electricity costs would spike as high as 19.9 percent. As coal use declines, demand for natural gas to fill the gap will raise Iowa’s gas costs by $2 billion in 10 years. Despite fears of what lies ahead, the EPA stays the course, risking a titanic crisis.

The nation’s governors don’t have that luxury.

Roman emperors made their architects sleep under the bridges they built, just to be sure. Today, the nation’s governors are being asked to sleep under the bridges EPA builds.

That should keep governors awake at night.

Hal Quinn is President & CEO of the National Mining Association

See the article here.

GUEST COLUMN: EPA Rules Will Harm the Poor Most

Via Tuscaloosa News:

You’ve probably heard the familiar oath: “First, do no harm.” It’s the pledge doctors are obliged to follow when treating an illness or injury.

Our government in Washington should heed the same advice: Don’t treat one problem by creating another, more serious one.

That caution comes to mind as I’ve considered new regulations on power plants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose this summer. As a step toward addressing climate change, the EPA wants to curb carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants and wants governors across the country to shut down coal-fired plants in their states.

The problem is that these are the same plants that provide the biggest portion of our electricity, and usually at the most affordable rates. Climate change may well be a serious issue, and one that deserves an informed response from our government. But the EPA’s plan isn’t the right one. According to a growing number of experts who are responsible for overseeing our nation’s electricity supply, the EPA’s plan will do next to nothing for global warming, but will raise the cost of electricity for both homes and businesses. It could even make the supply of electricity for all of us less reliable.

As a person who has spent a lifetime fighting on behalf of poor people, this concerns me greatly, and it troubles the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that I represent.

The reason is simple: Higher electricity bills hurt poor and low-income families the most. These communities, frequently consisting of disadvantaged minorities, already spend a larger share of their limited income on monthly utility bills — far more than affluent communities spend as a share of their income. In fact, a Stanford University study suggests that the new regulations would mean households in the lowest income group shouldering increased energy costs at more than twice the rate of households in the highest 10 percent of income.

Paying for electricity is not a discretionary expense. The poor and the elderly on fixed incomes need heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer as much as higher-income households, only they have fewer dollars to pay for these necessities.

Rising utility bills can often result in painful sacrifices — a poorer diet, poorer health, fewer of life’s little pleasures and certainly none of the costlier ones. And utility bills are bound to climb as the most affordable electricity is eliminated, forcing us to rely on costlier sources. People’s health conditions are impacted if they are forced to live without air conditioning or heat, or if meals are skipped just to foot higher utility bills.

This is a case of government trying to make things better while creating spin-off problems. Surprisingly, even the environmental benefit will be negligible. That’s because American power plants are now far cleaner and are no longer the largest source of carbon emissions. Instead, power plants and factories in Asia produce far greater carbon output.

Overall, the EPA is asking us to pay the price for a problem we can’t fix, and it expects low-income households to pay the largest share.

Before the EPA adopts these measures, it should think twice about pursuing extreme rules that will have a negligible environmental impact, but could bring great pain to hard-working, everyday Americans.

Charles Steele, a Tuscaloosa native, is president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

See the article here.

EPA Plan Would Hurt Mississippi: Martin

Via The Clarion-Ledger:

Mississippi is finally showing signs of a recovery from the devastating impact of the “great recession.” Incomes and investment are beginning to grow again. The recovery is still fragile, however. The state is a long way from recovering all of the jobs it lost, and job growth in 2014 was the ninth lowest in the nation.

The last thing Mississippi needs now is something that will knock the recovery off track, but that’s exactly what bureaucrats in Washington seem intent on doing. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from America’s electric power plants. The plan would require a 30-percent reduction in carbon emissions from electricity production by 2030.

Mississippi would be required to cut its emissions by even more “37 percent” even though its emissions are already among the lowest in the country. Even worse, Mississippi can ill afford the plan’s high costs, which will disproportionately hit those who are already struggling: seniors, the poor and those still looking for work in the state’s fragile economy.

Economists who looked at the impact of the EPA plan on the state recently estimated that it will push Mississippi’s retail electricity prices up by at least 14 percent. That estimate assumes Mississippians will substantially reduce the amount of electricity they use in the coming years. If they don’t, prices could increase by almost 20 percent.

Absorbing an increase like that would be hard for any state. For Mississippi, it could be disastrous for the economy as a whole and for countless individuals and families already struggling to make ends meet. Almost two-thirds of the state’s households already spend over 20 percent of their after-tax income on energy. And one-third of the state’s households are seniors or others who rely on Social Security. They can’t afford another economic hit.

I know from personal experience working with seniors in Mississippi and around the country that a jump in the cost of a necessity, like electricity, can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Something in their budgets will have to give — spending on heat, spending on medications, maybe even spending on food.

In addition to effectively imposing a tax increase on Mississippi’s seniors and low- and middle-income families, the EPA plan would deal another blow to the state’s job growth. Coal could become an endangered species in Mississippi, along with the thousands of jobs that depend on it.

And the kicker is that all this economic sacrifice will come for naught. Even if the U.S. reduces its carbon emissions by 30 percent, rising emissions from developing nations, particularly Asian nations like China and India, will quickly overwhelm our cuts. China, for example, now burns nearly as much as coal as the rest of the world combined. The Clean Power Plan is a costly burden we must avoid.

Urge Gov. (Phil) Bryant and the state’s elected officials to oppose the EPA’s plan. The nation needs a full economic recovery and an energy policy that puts affordable energy before a misguided climate crusade.

Jim Martin is chairman of the 60 Plus Association, a nonpartisan seniors advocacy group.

See the article here.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Letter to Nation’s Governors

Dear Governors:

I write concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed “Clean Power Plan”, or CPP, a new Obama Administration regulation that would require states to dramatically restructure their electricity systems based on the EPA’s view of how electricity should be produced and used in each state. This new proposal calls for a 30% reduction in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030 (from 2005 levels) through federally-enforceable state plans submitted to the EPA.  I have serious legal and policy concerns regarding this proposal.

Some have recently suggested that failing to comply with the EPA’s requirements would be to disregard the law. But the fact is, it is the EPA that is failing to comply with the law here. By requiring states to submit a plan aimed at achieving a lower emissions target based upon four so-called “building blocks” — (1) improved power plant efficiencies, (2) switching electricity generation sources, (3) building new generation and transmission, and (4) reducing demand — the EPA is overreaching, as its authority under the Clean Air Act extends only to the first building block related to source specific energy efficiency upgrades.

In other words, the EPA is attempting to compel states to do more themselves than what the agency would be authorized to do on its own, as many states have noted in their comments in response to the rule. This point has been repeatedly stressed by noted Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, an otherwise strong supporter of President Obama who taught the first course in environmental law in the United States. As Professor Tribe has noted, the Clean Air Act not only fails to authorize the EPA’s plan, it forbids it. Professor Tribe recently called the EPA’s plan “constitutionally reckless”, saying it “usurp[s] the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts — all at once.”

Moreover, while the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA may regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, the Court never sanctioned an effort as far-reaching as the CPP. In fact, the Court recently struck down a key part of another EPA rule aimed at regulating carbon dioxide emissions and, in a decision issued shortly after the CPP was announced, pointedly warned the EPA against claiming regulatory powers for itself not clearly granted to it by Congress.[1] In the same case, the Supreme Court declared that it “expect[s] Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign to an agency decisions of vast “economic and political significance.””[2]  This rule clearly meets that definition.

The CPP would impose the greatest hardship on low-income families, including those with a fixed income and those dependent on Social Security. A recent study by National Economic Research Associates (NERA) found that under the EPA’s proposed plan, double-digit electricity rate increases are projected for 43 states, and the costs could total nearly $479 billion over 15 years nationwide. In Kentucky alone, this proposed regulation is projected to shrink the state’s economy by almost $2 billion, jeopardizing electricity delivery and throwing countless individuals out of work. Its impact would be devastating at a moment when the Kentucky coal industry has already shed nearly 8,000 jobs.

The EPA’s stated rationale for attempting to shut down America’s coal-fired power plants is to combat global climate change. Yet, this costly effort is largely symbolic unless and until other major nations impose similar requirements on their own economies. Even then, the EPA admits that the “climate” benefits of the CPP cannot be quantified and has refused to estimate the impact it would have on global temperature or sea levels.

For all these reasons, I hope you will carefully review the consequences before signing up for this deeply misguided plan. I believe you will find, as I have, that the EPA’s proposal goes far beyond its legal authority and that the courts are likely to strike it down. All of which raises the very important question of why the EPA is asking states at this time to propose their own compliance plans in the first place.

As others have suggested, the EPA’s deadlines were very likely designed to force states to develop and submit implementation plans before the courts can decide on the legality of the CPP. Their hope is that states will commit to these plans before serious legal questions are resolved. This in itself should be a sufficiently compelling reason to deny the EPA’s request. Given the dubious legal rationale behind the EPA’s demands, rather than submitting plans now, states should allow the courts to rule on the merits of the CPP.

States should also know that if they are either unwilling or unable to submit a plan to the EPA’s satisfaction, the only recourse for the EPA is to develop and impose its own federal plan for that state. The EPA has no authority to either bring a lawsuit against any state that fails to submit a state plan[3], or to withhold federal funds from states that decline to submit a plan.[4]

More importantly, there is serious doubt about whether the EPA has the authority to impose a federal plan that mandates the measures and actions it wants states to undertake, including switching electricity generation away from coal-fired plants and requiring other plants to make up the difference; requiring the construction and use of higher-cost and variable renewable sources; and imposing programs to reduce the use of electricity by residents or businesses. Thus, a federal plan likely would be limited to regulating a power plant itself, such as the efficiency measures under the EPA’s building block 1.

Moreover, even if the EPA does attempt to impose a federal plan, it is difficult to see how it could be any worse than the plan it is asking states to impose on themselves. According to estimates, the cost of implementing the first building block — the one most likely within the agency’s authority — amounts to $17.6 billion. That’s a fraction of the $479 billion price tag for the full plan the EPA is counting on states to impose upon themselves.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, submitting a plan exposes states to the real danger— allowing the EPA to wrest control of a state’s energy policy if they or any other federal agency becomes dissatisfied with a state’s progress in reaching federal emissions goals. As both the EPA and other environmental groups have noted, a state plan must be “federally enforceable.” The meaning of this language is clear: as the EPA sees it, a state-issued plan would give the agency broad new authority to control that state’s energy future — not to mention the ability to place the blame for future consequences squarely on the state itself.

This proposed plan is already on shaky legal grounds, will be extremely burdensome and costly, and will not seriously address the global environmental concerns that are frequently raised to justify it. Moreover, declining to go along with the administration’s legally dubious plan will give the other two branches of government time to address the proposal and will not put your state at risk in the interim. It will provide time for the courts to rule on whether the EPA’s proposed rule is legal, and it will give Congress a chance to address numerous concerns surrounding this latest power grab by the EPA.

Thank you for your attention. I encourage you or your staff to contact my office with any further concerns.

Sincerely,

MITCH McCONNELL

United States Senator

[1]Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, et al, 134 S.Ct. 2427, 2444 (2014) (“EPA’s interpretation is also unreasonable because it would bring about an enormous and transformative expansion in EPA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.”.) 

[2] Id. (citations omitted).

[3] Under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, Congress cannot compel a state to regulate.  Nat’l Fed’n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, 132 S. Ct. 2566, 2602 (2012) (quoting New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 178 (1992)).

[4] Section 179(b) of the Clean Air Act, pertaining to highway funding sanctions, applies only to implementation plans required under subpart D of Title I of the Act, which are implementation plans relating to national ambient air quality standards under section 110 of the Act.  40 C.F.R. § 52.31(c).

See the letter here.

 

Cost of Cleaner Power Could Take Toll on Low-income Families

Via The Hill:

There continues to be contentious debate in Washington on the best approach to address the issue of climate change.  Environmental groups have lined up against business interests in what has become a heated battle over potential legislation.

But one voice that may not be heard as clearly in this ongoing debate is the significant cross-section of American families who are living on very limited means.  And as lawmakers grapple with this weighty issue, I’d suggest a key point of advice: Don’t treat one problem by creating another, potentially more serious challenge.

That caution comes to mind with regard to the new regulations on power plants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will propose this summer.  As a step toward addressing climate change, the EPA wants to curb carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants and wants governors across the country to shut down coal-fired plants in their states.

The problem is that these are the same plants that provide the largest portion of our electricity, and usually at the most affordable rates. Climate change may well be a serious issue, and one that deserves an informed response from our government. But the EPA’s plan isn’t the right one.  According to a growing number of experts who are responsible for overseeing our nation’s electricity supply, the EPA’s plan will do next to nothing for global warming but will raise the cost of electricity for both homes and businesses. It could even make the supply of electricity for all of us less reliable.

As a person who has spent a lifetime fighting on behalf of poor people, this concerns me greatly, and it troubles the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that I represent.

The reason is simple: Higher electricity bills hurt poor and low-income families the most.  These communities, frequently consisting of disadvantaged minorities, already spend a larger share of their limited income on monthly utility bills – far more than affluent communities spend as a share of their income.  In fact, a Stanford University study suggests that the new regulations would mean households in the lowest income group shouldering increased energy costs at more than twice the rate of households in the highest 10 percent of income.

Paying for electricity is not a discretionary expense.  The poor and the elderly on fixed incomes need heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer as much as higher-income households, only they have fewer dollars to pay for these necessities.

Rising utility bills can often result in painful sacrifices – a poorer diet, poorer health, fewer of life’s little pleasures and certainly none of the costlier ones. And utility bills are bound to climb as the most affordable electricity is eliminated, forcing us to rely on costlier sources.  People’s health conditions are impacted if they are forced to live without air conditioning or heat, or if meals are skipped just to foot higher utility bills.

This is a case of government trying to make things better while creating spin-off problems.   Surprisingly, even the environmental benefit will be negligible.  That’s because American power plants are now far cleaner, and are no longer the largest source of carbon emissions.  Instead, power plants and factories in Asia produce far greater carbon output.

Overall, the EPA is asking us to pay the price for a problem we can’t fix, and it expects low-income households to pay the largest share.

Before the EPA adopts these measures, it should think twice about pursuing extreme rules that will have a negligible environmental impact, but could bring great pain to hard-working everyday Americans.

Steele is president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

See the article here.

In Ky., Debate Over Coal’s Future ‘Really is About Manufacturing’

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — It’s not hard to see how energy fits into Kevin Butt’s business of assembling 2,000 cars a day.

“When we make cars, we argue about pennies sometimes,” he said. “Make it better, but don’t spend the money.”

Butt is the regional environmental director at Toyota Motor Corp.’s assembly plant here, where time and precision are measured down to the final bolt. More than 7,000 full-time workers a day pass through Toyota’s largest assembly plant outside of Japan, a sprawling 7.5-million-square-foot space in the rolling hills of central Kentucky horse country.

Coils of rolled steel are stamped into a Camry or an Avalon. Robots and people work side by side to weld parts into a body, before the car is loaded onto a conveyor belt and off to the paint room. This fall, the plant will start producing Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus.

Put it all together, and you have a major consumer of electricity in a state where there’s really only one source: coal-fired generation. When the plant opened in the 1980s, Kentucky was a cheap place to let a machine run all weekend. Workers did just that.

“People were afraid to turn something off,” Butt said. “It’s the human element, the culture. We’re still working through it, making sure we’re turning something off.”

The discussion about electricity use continues to change at the Georgetown assembly plant. Managers say their attitude falls under the Japanese principle called kaizen, or “continuous improvement.” Adopting more efficient ways of using power and considering their effect on Toyota’s competitiveness in North America and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions put kaizen to the test.

But today there’s an additional challenge, and that’s the rising cost of purchasing power from electric utilities in Kentucky and across the Midwest. Regulated electricity rates are outside of the control of Toyota employees, even as they preach careful energy management. Also outside of their control are proposed federal regulations aiming to cut power-sector carbon dioxide emissions tied to climate change.

PPL Corp.’s Kentucky Utilities, which serves Georgetown and southern Scott County around it, requested a 9.6 percent rate increase from the Public Service Commission in November. The $153 million revenue boost would help the utility handle rising capital costs.

Utility CEO Victor Staffieri cited $5.4 billion in capital costs through 2019, including firing up a natural gas generation unit and increasing capacity at a hydroelectric plant along the Ohio River that’s operated by Louisville Gas & Electric. LG&E and KU are jointly run under the PPL umbrella of investor-owned utilities.

“We all realize that the cost of energy is going to increase dramatically over time,” Butt said in an interview in his quiet office a few hallways down from the busy assembly floor. “That’s a risk for this company.”

A nod for manufacturing

During visits to Washington, D.C., Kentucky officials are eager to point out that the state’s manufacturers could be badly hurt by U.S. EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. The state’s industrial sector benefits from some of the lowest overall energy costs east of the Mississippi River, they’ve told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Those costs are going up as utilities replace old coal plants with cleaner power sources.

Kentucky has 220,000 people working in manufacturing. That spans energy-intensive aluminum smelters and the tens of thousands going to work at auto part factories or assembly plants.

The industrial sector is smaller than in Rust Belt states to the north and east, but the job numbers dwarf those employed in Kentucky coal mining. Even so, saving coal jobs has been the sole focus of a well-financed effort by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and coal industry allies looking to kill President Obama’s climate plan.

“So you tell me what this is going to be about. It really is about manufacturing,” Kentucky Energy and Environment Secretary Leonard Peters told EnergyWire last month, when asked about the focus of a highly charged statewide debate here about the costs of regulating carbon.

One of the ways to offset rising electricity costs is to use less of the commodity: Turn the lights out. Power down industrial widgets. Install rooftop solar panels that eliminate fuel costs. But Kentucky joins other states in wrestling with how exactly to incentivize electric utilities and industrial customers to work together on programs to control consumption better before costs start rising quickly.

For Toyota and other corners of the state’s expanding auto industry, energy consumption can be tweaked by employing new and better technology for building cars. At a smelter or a cement factory, there’s little wiggle room when so much of its raw material is the energy itself.

“In Kentucky, while there’s been some progress and some increased investment, as a whole it’s not one of the leaders in energy efficiency,” said Jill Tauber, a managing attorney for Earthjustice.

Kentucky tends to eat up more energy per unit of economic activity than other states. The industrial sector here has one of the highest energy intensity rates in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Department, and it consumes about 45 percent of the state’s total energy demand.

The Public Service Commission in Kentucky doesn’t have the authority to mandate that utilities encourage residential, commercial and industrial customers to use less power. But the commission continues to bring it up in rate cases, and it’s pressing the large investor-owned utilities and rural co-ops to study ways to incentivize industrial users to save energy.

Regulators here are pitching efficiency as a tool for navigating — or surviving — rapid changes in the power sector.

“The commission continues to believe that conservation, energy efficiency and demand-side management, generally, will become increasingly important as more constraints are likely to be placed upon utilities whose main source of supply is coal-based generation,” the commission said in a Jan. 16 order that grants a 2.4 percent rate increase to Cumberland Valley Electric.

The commission is pushing utilities to take more aggressive measures through what’s called demand-side management, or DSM. That refers to the variety of programs and financial incentives that utilities can use to control how much energy big customers use during peak hours.

‘Lowest-carbon kilowatt’

For utilities, the economic benefit of selling less of their product to big customers isn’t obvious unless they can recover the cost of doing so through regulated rates. But efficiency is on the shortlist of tools states can use to comply with federal targets for cutting carbon emissions.

“The lowest-carbon kilowatt is still the one you don’t use,” said Gale Boyd, an economist and director of the Triangle Research Data Center at Duke University.

“That’s going to require a partnership with management, and for companies to let their energy suppliers into their plants,” he said. “It’s what successful utilities are going to do with respect to their industrial load.”

In November, the commission approved an efficiency plan with plenty of cost-recovery for LG&E and Kentucky Utilities through 2018. That includes energy profiles for high-consuming residential customers; the use of “switches” to cycle down air conditioning, heat pumps and equipment during peak hours; low-income weatherization programs; and $150 to $1,000 incentives for multi-family houses to change their consumption habits.

LG&E and KU proposed a voluntary advanced metering program for a limited number of customers.

But in rolling out its plan, the utilities ran into trouble when they presented a study on what more can be done to boost energy efficiency. The study didn’t include the industrial sector.

Sierra Club jumped in and asked the commission to direct the companies to study what industrial customers can do.

The PSC described the utilities’ concern this way: If large energy consumers such as Toyota opted out of an industrial demand-side management and efficiency program, costs for everyone else would go up. It described a domino effect that would lead other industrial customers to opt out.

The utilities also pointed to a lack of interest in energy efficiency programs among big industrial customers, according to a 2012 survey they conducted.

“The companies presented no evidence, except for the 2012 survey, to support its contention that there is no wide-scale interest in industrial DSM/EE programs,” the PSC said in its November order.

The PSC ordered the utilities to commission a study of potential industrial energy efficiency.

Cumberland rates

States that burn a lot of cheap coal have held down regulated electricity rates for decades. Yet in a number of those states, including Kentucky, the monthly residential electric bills that land in customer mailboxes are higher than in states with more aggressive efficiency programs.

In Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana, average monthly residential electric bills are between $105 and $135 a month, according to 2012 data compiled by Fitch Ratings.

In California and Colorado, where rates are higher but state policies incentivize utilities to encourage energy savings, the average monthly bill was between $80 and $87.

EPA carbon regulations are expected to be finalized this summer. The transition to a power system that is ultimately cheaper and more manageable for consumers means big capital costs for utilities on the front end of what’s expected to be a multi-decade process.

In the Cumberland Valley rate case in January, the PSC acknowledged that there’s a need for utilities operating in poor regional economies to “guard against” the revenue erosion that happens when customers and sales decline. Cumberland Valley distributes power to customers across the southeastern part of Kentucky, where the population and local economies are declining. That puts both the utility and state regulators in a tough spot.

Electricity demand has remained relatively flat in recent years. And burning loads of coal to produce and sell as much electricity as possible isn’t the fail-safe business model it used to be. Natural gas is priced competitively with coal, and the cost of supplementing baseload generation with zero-carbon sources such as wind and solar is coming down fast.

In Midwestern states on Kentucky’s doorstep, electric transmission infrastructure is an emerging cost. In states less coal-dependent than Kentucky, interstate lines meant to build out the regional grid to tap wind power from the Great Plains and to integrate utility-scale solar power are being factored into discussions about cost control.

Back in Georgetown, Toyota has decided to take some of this into its own hands.

This spring, the plant expects to start converting methane from a local landfill into 1 megawatt of electricity, and increasing power production from there. Starting out, it’s enough to power the production of about 10,000 cars.

In the meantime, Butt, the environmental manager at Toyota, says the system of capturing methane cuts about 90 percent of the landfill’s greenhouse gas emissions and helps the region meet ambient air quality standards.

“We’ll always be on a major grid of some sort,” Butt said.

Increasingly, however, there’s some choice in the matter. “How do we step out from where we’re currently at and evaluate the next pieces of technology we could use here?” Butt asked.

Toyota is looking for opportunities to couple investments in energy-cost savings and emissions reductions, he said. But he acknowledged that the goal is harder to meet for industrial plants in states like Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, where utilities remain locked into burning coal for most of their power.

“If you look at our manufacturing plant in Toronto, Canada, which is all hydropower, we don’t look so good,” Butt said, by comparison to the Georgetown plant’s carbon footprint.

See the article here.

EPA is on a ‘Constitutionally Reckless Mission,’ Obama’s Law Professor Testifies

Via The Hill: 

The law professor, who taught President Obama says the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the statutory and constitutional authority to force states to implement plans to cut carbon emissions at existing power plants.

“In my considered view, EPA is off on a constitutionally reckless mission,” Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law School, said in prepared remarks at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing on Tuesday.

Tribe was hired to write comments on the rule by Peabody Energy Corp., the largest coal-mining company in the world.

The rule, EPA proposed in June, seeks to cut the power sector’s carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. Under the rule, states would have one year to create and adopt implementation plans.

“This submissive role for the states confounds the political accountability that the Tenth Amendment is meant to protect,” Tribe said in his remarks. “EPA’s plan will force states to adopt policies that will raise energy costs and prove deeply unpopular, while cloaking those policies in the Emperor’s garb of state “choice” – even though in fact the polices are compelled by EPA.”

While Subcommittee Chair Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) agreed with Tribe, calling EPA’s plan “a violation of existing law,” not everyone on the committee views the rule as federal overreach.

“Climate change is here,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.). “We need to take action and we need to take it now.”

McNerney said the EPA rule would force the creation of new technologies and put the U.S. in a leadership role in the world’s efforts to curb climate change.

“I know the coal producers are worried about this, but my advice to them is to embrace carbon sequestration,” he said.

Read more here.

It’s Not Time Yet to Scuttle Coal-fired Power

Via the Great Falls Tribune:

Coal was cheap and plentiful in the United States in the 20th century, becoming a veritable King Coal for generating electricity.

In the 21st century, natural gas and nuclear power (absent a meltdown) are cleaner options, and so are solar and wind, although they are erratic sources of power and must be supplemented with other more reliable power. Coal may be headed for the dreaded bin of obsolescence someday.

But let’s pause a moment and get practical.

Coal plants still “are generating some pretty cheap electricity,” notes Montana Public Service Commissioner Travis Kavulla.

That’s a fact that can’t be ignored, even if coal will no longer be America’s favorite fuel in the long term.

After all, there is this issue of transition. Even the United States, one of the richest and most powerful nations on the planet, cannot suddenly announce it will shut down all coal plants.

It’s not that easy. For one thing, in making these changes, we don’t want to bankrupt businesses and make power costs truly onerous for residential users. And the transition will take decades, not months or a few years.

That’s why recent actions by the Washington state Legislature are of concern to the state of Montana, which has huge coal reserves in eastern Montana.

A few days ago, the Washington state Senate passed a bill to study how utilities in that state could be assisted in shutting down coal-fired power plants at Colstrip in Montana in which they own large shares. The Washington Senate favored a study, rather than language that would have directly assisted utility Puget Power & Light and allowed it to charge its plant shutdown costs to its ratepayers. The issue goes back to the Washington House to an uncertain fate.

“The wise thing for everyone is to hit the pause button,” Great Falls’ Kavulla suggested to us. He thinks this complex issue would be better handled by Washington’s regulatory body, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, rather than by legislators. Kavulla also thinks new federal Environmental Protection Agency air pollution regulations expected to come out this summer could affect this debate.

Kavulla acknowledged the Colstrip plants won’t last forever and they will be retired someday, and that Montana mainly mines and exports coal to foreign customers, rather than burning it here. Both the PSC and Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock have written Washington officials recently to express concern over the legislation.

In fact, coal is important in 2015 to Montana’s economy, to Montana residents and to the utilities that serve us.

“Colstrip Unit 4 is a real important part of our generation portfolio,” said Butch Larcombe, a spokesman for NorthWestern Energy, the state’s dominant utility. He said the company is “keeping a very close eye on” what’s happening in the state of Washington Legislature. Coal-fired electricity comprises 26 percent of NorthWestern Energy’s power sold to Montana customers.

Exactly what legislators in Washington, seeking to take a greener stance toward coal, will decide remains unclear. We agree that a cautious approach, coupled with cooperation among affected states including Washington and Montana, is warranted.

It would be foolish to start pulling the plug on all of these old coal-fired power plants before we know what power source would replace the electricity generated by coal. Consumers also have the right to know if they will face much higher power bills without coal as an option.

Let’s not make hasty decisions in the dark — or we could end up there.

— Tribune editorial board

See the article here.

Charles Steele Jr.: Let’s Tell the EPA: First, Do No Harm

Via The Kokomo Tribune:

You’ve probably heard the familiar oath: “First, do no harm.” It’s the pledge doctors are obliged to follow when treating an illness or injury.

Our government in Washington should heed the same advice: Don’t treat one problem by creating another, more serious one.

That caution comes to mind as I’ve considered new regulations on power plants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will propose this summer. As a step toward addressing climate change, the EPA wants to curb carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants and wants governors across the country to shut down coal-fired plants in their states.

The problem is these are the same plants that provide the biggest portion of our electricity, and usually at the most affordable rates. Climate change may well be a serious issue, and one that deserves an informed response from our government. But the EPA’s plan isn’t the right one. According to a growing number of experts who are responsible for overseeing our nation’s electricity supply, the EPA’s plan will do next to nothing for global warming but will raise the cost of electricity for both homes and businesses. It could even make the supply of electricity for all of us less reliable.

As a person who has spent a lifetime fighting on behalf of poor people, this concerns me greatly, and it troubles the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that I represent.

The reason is simple: Higher electricity bills hurt poor and low-income families the most. These communities, frequently consisting of disadvantaged minorities, already spend a larger share of their limited income on monthly utility bills — far more than affluent communities spend as a share of their income. In fact, a Stanford University study suggests the new regulations would mean households in the lowest income group shouldering increased energy costs at more than twice the rate of households in the highest 10 percent of income.

Paying for electricity is not a discretionary expense. The poor and the elderly on fixed incomes need heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer as much as higher-income households, only they have fewer dollars to pay for these necessities.

Rising utility bills can often result in painful sacrifices — a poorer diet, poorer health, fewer of life’s little pleasures and certainly none of the costlier ones. And utility bills are bound to climb as the most affordable electricity is eliminated, forcing us to rely on costlier sources. People’s health conditions are impacted if they are forced to live without air conditioning or heat, or if meals are skipped just to foot higher utility bills.

This is a case of government trying to make things better while creating spin-off problems. Surprisingly, even the environmental benefit will be negligible. That’s because American power plants are now far cleaner, and are no longer the largest source of carbon emissions. Instead, power plants and factories in Asia produce far greater carbon output.

Overall, the EPA is asking us to pay the price for a problem we can’t fix, and it expects low-income households to pay the largest share.

Before the EPA adopts these measures, it should think twice about pursuing extreme rules that will have a negligible environmental impact, but could bring great pain to hard-working everyday Americans.

 

Dr. Charles Steele Jr. is president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization.

See the article here.

 

Clean Power Plan Bills Generate Debate Across the Southeast, Midwest

Via E&E Publishing:

Jeffrey Tomich and Kristi E. Swartz

As U.S. EPA continues to work on a final version of the Clean Power Plan for release later this summer, conservative lawmakers in more than a dozen states are trying to ensure they get the final say on how their state responds to it, citing concerns about electric rates, reliability and jobs.

A measure signed by West Virginia’s governor this month would require the Legislature to approve of the state’s plan to cut carbon emissions before the plan is submitted to EPA (ClimateWire, March 5). Similar bills requiring legislative approval or review are winding their way through committees in states, especially throughout the Southeast and Midwest.

For the most part, the bills are referendums on the Obama administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. And most are based on model legislation put forward in December by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The bill, H.B. 849, directs the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to submit Florida’s compliance plan to the Legislature before sending it to EPA.

Sponsor Rep. John Wood, a Republican from Winter Haven, told committee members he’s concerned about the cost to electric ratepayers and wants to make sure the Legislature is involved in forming the Sunshine State’s plan for meeting EPA’s targets.

A Democratic lawmaker quizzed Wood about the bill, specifically whether he had taken into consideration the cost to public health from air pollution.

“Now if you consider CO2 to be a pollutant, then everybody zip up their mouths and don’t exhale for the rest of the meeting because you are polluting the air,” Wood answered. “God gave us CO2 to grow plants, to exhale, all of that.”

Critics bash bills as ‘duplicative’

Clean energy advocates and other critics of the bills are pushing back, calling the measures redundant, expensive and unnecessary.

Aliya Haq is tracking the Clean Power Plan bills as climate change special projects director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. By her count, such legislation has died or stalled in seven states, including Mississippi. Bills are still pending in about a dozen others.

Haq and other critics of the proposals say they do nothing to help states that are being given maximum flexibility by EPA to come up with specifically tailored strategies to meet the carbon reduction targets.

“It’s odd because presumably the conservative legislators are trying to lambast the EPA, but really they’re really shooting their states in the foot,” she said.

In some states, environmental regulators are actively opposing the bills, noting that compliance plans are being developed with extensive input from a wide range of technical experts: regulators, utilities, grid operators and economists.

Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency, for instance, initiated a work group of more than 130 people from 64 organizations — utilities, the state Department of Commerce, the regional grid operator, the Public Utilities Commission, the Chamber of Commerce and others — to examine issues associated with implementation of a plan to cut carbon emissions, Greta Gauthier, the agency’s legislative director, told a state House committee Monday.

“The bill’s insertion of a legislative process on top of that sounds duplicative,” she said, warning that the measure bill could be a disincentive for groups because of a risk that the Legislature could easily invalidate their work.

What’s more, bills also increase the cost to states and bring the threat of the EPA imposing a federal implementation plan (FIP) on states that don’t develop an approved plan on their own.

“Whether we all want to get FIP-ped is a question going forward for all of us,” said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy, a St. Paul, Minn.-based clean energy advocacy group.

In the end, the committee passed the bill (H.F. 333), which would give the Minnesota Legislature veto power over the implementation plan developed by the state’s environmental regulators.

Bill supporters want states to have final say

Rep. Jim Newberger, who represents the district northwest of the Twin Cities that’s home to the Midwest’s largest coal-burning power plant, Xcel Energy’s 2,400-megawatt Sherburne County generating station, is the bill’s lead author.

He said the bill gives elected officials the final say on the state implementation plan and “prevents a handful of agency workers directing the future of Minnesota.”

Two utilities, the state’s electric cooperatives and the Chamber of Commerce all testified in favor of the measure, as did the coal lobby. Whatever plan is sent to EPA, they said, would fundamentally reorder how power plants are dispatched in the state — a weighty decision that should be left to an elected body.

“This is energy policy,” Marc Ourada, central region vice president for the American Council for Clean Coal Electricity, told committee members. “Energy policy is appropriately set by the Legislature and policymakers and not through a bureaucratic process and a SIP [state implementation plan] forced upon the state by the EPA.”

Bills filed in the Missouri House and Senate wouldn’t give the Legislature veto power over an implementation plan. But they would require a detailed cost-benefit analysis be submitted to the governor and leaders of both legislative chambers at least a month before the plan is submitted to EPA.

Dan Hutton, legislative director for state Sen. Gary Romine, the author of one of the bills (S.B. 142), said the intent is to provide additional data about the cost of implementation.

Similar reports are required when the Missouri Department of Natural Resources develops a new rule or compliance plan, he said. But they are typically done after submission to EPA.

“It’s a transparency piece,” Hutton said.

Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest electric utility, and electric cooperatives testified in support of the bill during a hearing last month, as did the state Chamber of Commerce. But not without concerns.

Warren Wood, an Ameren Missouri vice president, said the St. Louis-based utility wants to be sure the process doesn’t overwhelm the state Department of Natural Resources to the point that it triggers delays and invites EPA to impose a federal plan.

David Weiskopf, an attorney for NextGen Climate, believes that’s exactly what S.B. 142 and other bills like it across the country are meant to do — create unnecessary red tape to delay implementation of rules to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

“This bill puts additional strains on public resources that should be put toward implementing a plan,” he said.

There’s no cost data yet for the Missouri legislation. But the Minnesota bill would come with a $937,000 price tag for the 2016-17 biennial — a figure challenged by Republican supporters. Similar legislation in Kansas would cost the state $400,000 to $500,000 to hire consultants, according to a fiscal note.

The Kansas bills would require a joint investigation by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and utility regulators to determine the cost of re-dispatching power plants. They would also require approval from a special legislative committee and prohibit participation in an organized carbon emission-trading market without specific statutory authority.

Some bills look to kill the rule

In addition to bills requiring legislative approval or review of Clean Power Plan strategies, lawmakers in states such as Georgia have filed resolutions urging withdrawal of the proposed rule.

“I’m tired of the federal government putting regulations on energy companies that are really not attainable … without a huge amount of money being invested, and that’s going to be passed on to the ratepayer,” said Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb, who filed a resolution, S.R. 449, this week.

Beach said he’s frustrated that EPA isn’t crediting Georgia for work done so far to cut emissions by 30 percent and building two nuclear reactors. His criticisms mirror those of Georgia Power and state regulators, as well as South Carolina and Tennessee, which also are adding more carbon-free nuclear generation.

In some states, measures requiring legislative review of state implementation plans have also given rise to a bigger debate over separation of powers. State regulators tasked with submitting plans to EPA are generally appointed by governors, leaving some to question whether lawmakers should be allowed to have the last word on whether a plan is submitted.

Amanda Garcia, a staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said a bill in Tennessee based on the ALEC model legislation presents just such an issue.

“It has the typical problems that you’re seeing in the legislation, namely interfering with executive authority to design and implement a plan,” Garcia said.

The same argument was raised in Minnesota, where ideological differences between the state’s Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled committee were on display.

Republicans at Monday’s committee meeting cited comments last summer by Gov. Mark Dayton, who challenged state business leaders to figure out a way to wean the state off coal. Democrats, meanwhile, questioned what they saw as efforts to shield the coal industry.

“Do you believe it’s appropriate to inject politics into science?” state Rep. Tim Mahoney (D) asked the bill’s sponsor.

“That’s a loaded question,” Newberger answered. “In our day and age, it’s impossible to separate politics and science.”

See the article here.

States Fling Criticism at EPA’s Power Plant Rules

Via The Washington Examiner:

BY JOHN SICILIANO 

States heaped criticism on the Obama administration’s proposed climate rules Wednesday, saying its power plant regulations would harm their economies and damage electricity reliability.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, parsed therules as tearing at the fabric of “federalism” and harming state sovereignty by applying new regulations that would impose significant changes for energy resources, “damaging” the reliable flow of electricity to consumers and driving up costs.

To the shock of the committee’s ranking Democrat, ardent EPA defender Sen. Barbara Boxer, nearly all the states testifying agreed in some way with Inhofe. The only exception was her home state’s air board chief.

The chairwoman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, Ellen Nowak, particularly “stunned” Boxer.

“Wisconsin is a manufacturing-heavy state, with industrial customers representing over one-third of energy sales, and more than 60 percent of our state’s power generation comes from coal,” Nowak said in her prepared remarks.

“If the problems in the ‘Clean Power Plan’ are not remedied, the work Wisconsin has done to restore our manufacturing sector will be threatened.”

And “[a]s a regulator, I also remain concerned about the reliability of the grid, considering the dramatic, fast shift in energy production required by this proposal.”

Tom Easterly, a commissioner with Indiana’s environmental regulator, raised similar concerns about the closure of coal plants hurting reliability. And Todd Parfitt, Wyoming’s director of environmental quality, raised criticisms about the power plant rule’s structure.

States are important to the success of EPA’s Clean Power Plan because, as opposed to other power plant rules, it is up to the states to comply as opposed to an individual power plant owner. States are given individually-tailored carbon reduction targets they must begin achieving in 2020, according to the EPA proposal. The proposal is scheduled to be finalized this summer.

Boxer said she was “stunned” by the statements that deplored the climate regulations.

She turned immediately to Mary Nichols, the head of her state’s environmental regulatory agency, in an attempt to play down concerns about the climate change rules driving out industry.

“What bothers me is some of the states’ attitudes of gloom and doom when we have states that are doing this, [and] prospering far more than your state[s],” Boxer said.

It “stuns me,” but “it’s OK, I respect your view,” she added. She then asked Nichols to answer Inhofe’s and the states’ concerns that the rules would increase carbon pollution because companies would be “so upset” they would leave and then spread their emissions to another country or state.

“Have we found companies running away from California?” she asked. “The last I checked, Silicon Valley was booming, we have increasing manufacturing. Am I wrong on the point?”

Nichols responded, “You’re not wrong, Senator Boxer. We have experienced growth across the board,” but particularly in the clean energy sector in which California leads the nation.

Meanwhile, almost across the street from the Dirksen Senate office building, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was receiving a similar earful from state regulators at the third of fourth technical conferences it is holding on the power plant rules.

Commissioner Kelly Speakes-Backman, with Maryland’s utility commission, used the meeting to tout the success of the northeast’s regional cap-and-trade program.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is made up of several states from the mid-Atlantic to the northern most part of New England.

Speakes-Backman, who also serves as the initiative’s chairman, explained the benefits of the carbon reduction collective in meeting the goals of EPA’s power plant rules.

“The carbon intensity of the RGGI states’ power sectors…has decreased at twice the rate of the rest of the country,” she said, adding that maintaining reliability and meeting environmental rules are not incompatible goals.

“Maryland recognizes that reliability is of utmost importance to the success of any power sector initiative, including RGGI and the Clean Power Plan,” she said. “In both cases, a properly designed plan allows grid reliability and pollution reduction programs to be fully compatible.”

See the article here.

Indiana Could Refuse to Comply with EPA Emissions Rule

Via The Indianapolis Star:

Indiana may refuse to comply with a pending federal rule to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the head of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said Wednesday.

IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly testified at a Senate hearing about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule, which would require Indiana to reduce by 20 percent the amount of carbon dioxide generated per unit of electricity by 2030.

Indiana could come up with a plan for meeting that target on its own, and it could join with others for a multistate approach.

Or, Easterly said, Indiana could refuse to comply under what he called the “just say no option.”

“Indiana is evaluating all available responses,” he said.

If a state does not come up with a plan for meeting its required reduction, the EPA will impose its own plan.

The agency is in the process of evaluating the more than 1.4 million comments it received about the proposal and plans to issue a final version by midsummer. States would have a year to come up with a plan to meet their reduction targets.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral arguments next month in a lawsuit filed by Indiana and 11 other states challenging the EPA’s authority to issue the regulation.

McCabe has said the emissions reduction targets for each state took into account how difficult it would be to comply, given how reliant states are on coal-generated electricity. Indiana gets more than 80 percent of its power from coal-fired power plants.

“But wherever the state is, whatever its mix is, there are opportunities there and there are opportunities in Indiana and West Virginia and everywhere to reduce the carbon intensity of the power production,” McCabe told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last month.

The committee asked states to give their views of the proposal Wednesday.

Easterly and officials from Wyoming and Wisconsin criticized the rule as unrealistic and damaging to their states’ economies and to energy reliability.

Officials from California and New York testified that their states show that carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced without great pain.

“I have good news for other states,” said Michael J. Myers of the New York Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. “You can significantly reduce these emissions from the power sector and do so in a way that grows the economy.”

But to do that, Myers said, “each state has to be willing to take the wheel.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Easterly whether he has accounted for the costs to Indiana of the changing climate if no action is taken.

“I don’t think you can quantify any cost of future climate change on the state of Indiana,” Easterly said. “There’s nothing concrete to quantify. There’s speculation.”

A federal advisory committee said in a report released last year that global warming is already damaging every region of the country and that problems will increase.

Effects in the Midwest include more intense heat waves, more humidity and worse air quality. More extreme rainfalls will cause erosion and affect water quality, according to the National Climate Assessment report. The Great Lakes will see more invasive species and more algae blooms, and beach quality will degrade.

Easterly told the committee there are natural variations in the climate.

“The environment of our Earth has been changing for all of recorded history,” he said. “Indiana used to be under a huge ice sheet.”

See the article here.

Biden On Coal Regulations: ‘A Lot Of People Are Going To Get Hurt’

Via the Daily Caller:

Vice President Joe Biden told HBO viewers that federal regulations to move the U.S. away from coal-fired power will hurt a lot of Americans.

“Us moving away from coal because it’s such a polluter, there’s a lot of people going to get hurt, good people who worked their whole life,” Biden told VICE News in its season premiere on HBO last Friday.

“It’s a national responsibility, in our view, to help them make that transition,” Biden said. “We all have an obligation. When fundamental alterations in a generation of energy are up in play, there’s winners and losers.”

It turns out Biden’s right. Federal regulations clamping down on coal-fired power plants have cost thousands of jobs across the country as power plants and coal mines shed workers to stay in business.

In the new season of VICE, filmmakers try to link man-made global warming to sea level rises across the world. The film says that the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than ever and are causing flooding in places like Bangladesh.

“Our oceans are rising,” the filmmakers write. “With human use of hydrocarbons skyrocketing, waters around the globe are getting hotter and, now, this warm sub-surface water is washing into Antarctica’s massive western glaciers causing the glaciers to retreat and break off.”

“Antarctica holds 90% of the world’s ice and 70% of its freshwater, so if even a small fraction of the ice sheet in Antarctica melts, the resulting sea level rise will completely remap the world as we know it — and it is already happening,” the filmmakers add. “In the last decade, some of the most significant glaciers here have tripled their melt rate.”

Antarctica’s sea ice extent has actually increased rapidly over the last few decades, despite predictions to the contrary.

The film sets up global warming as an irreversible catastrophe in the making. Cue Joe Biden who is featured in an exclusive interview at the end of the first episode of VICE’s latest episode. Biden not only advocated for moving away from coal power — which Obama administration regulations currently in the works aim to accomplish — the vice president also said denying man-made global warming was akin to “denying gravity.”

“It’s almost like denying gravity now,” said Biden. “I mean wait a minute, ‘c’mon … Look what superstorm Sandy did right here in New York.”

VICE asked Biden why he thought the U.S. political system was gridlocked on global warming and so many other issues. Biden said it’s because of the “way in which we fund our elections” allows a small number of critics to gain power and control the political system.

“The public is ahead of their elected officials. We’ve been in this wilderness now for about 7 to 8 years in terms of not able to reach a consensus,” Biden said.

But Biden may be slightly overstating the public’s support for government regulations to combat global warming. A CNN poll from January found that 57 percent of Americans said global warming is not a threat to their lives.

See the article here.

 

States Should Reject EPA’s Power Plant Rule

  • EPA’s proposed power plant rule offers states fake “flexibility” to choose which carbon-reduction measures to implement.

  • For EPA, “flexibility” means allowing states to choose the method of their own economic wounding – and allowing EPA to shift the blame for the rule’s disastrous consequences.

  • States should avoid this trap by refusing to be complicit in the rule that the EPA plans on finalizing this summer.


Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule requiring states to severely restrict carbon emissions from existing power plants. It would radically curtail coal’s share of electricity generation. On Wednesday, Chairman Inhofe will hold a hearing in the Environment and Public Works Committee on this devastating new regulation.

The rule, which is expected to be finalized this summer, claims to offer states “flexibility” to choose for themselves which carbon-reduction measures to implement. Flexibility in this context means little more than an invitation for states to choose the method by which their economic wounding will be performed. It also enables the Obama administration to shift blame to the states. When the rule causes energy prices to rise, electric reliability to diminish, and jobs to disappear, the EPA will argue that state choices, not its rule, are responsible.

38 States have submitted comments objecting to the rule

38 States have submitted comments objecting to the rule

Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Many reasons to oppose the rule

The rule allows states to submit plans to the EPA detailing what energy choices they will make to comply with carbon emissions caps. If a state does not submit a plan that meets the administration’s approval, the EPA will impose a federal implementation plan that makes energy choices for that state.

Forcing the EPA to impose a federal plan may undermine the agency’s ability to implement all of the rule’s provisions. The rule requires a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels. EPA assumed four “building blocks” when establishing state carbon emissions-reduction targets: (1) reducing carbon intensity of coal-fired power plants by an average of six percent through heat-rate improvements; (2) re-dispatching generation from coal-fired power plants to natural gas combined cycle power plants and operating them at a 70 percent capacity factor; (3) substituting fossil fuel-fired power plants with additional renewable and nuclear electric generating capacity; (4) reducing electricity consumption from fossil fuel-fired power plants through increased “demand-side” energy management that improves energy efficiency by 1.5 percent annually.


“[A]n enforceable federal plan could only include elements of the first building block, the only building block directly related to a physical power plant facility. The remaining three building blocks are ‘outside the fence,’ and have nothing to do with the physical plants regulated under … the Clean Air Act.”  – Senator Inhofe


A majority of states have submitted comments in opposition to the rule. According to asurvey of the comments, 38 states raised at least one major objection: 32 states made legal objections; 28 raised significant concerns regarding compliance costs and economic impacts; 32 warned of electricity reliability problems; and 34 objected to EPA’s rushed regulatory timelines. So far, 12 states have sued the EPA over its authority to promulgate the rule, and six have passed laws restricting how their agencies respond to the rule.

States are concerned about the rule’s projected economic effects. An October 2014 NERA Economic Consulting report concluded that if all four of the rule’s building blocks are implemented, compliance costs could amount to $366 billion in present value terms over the next 15 years. Forty-three states could see double-digit electricity price increases. If only the first and second building blocks were used, the report projected compliance costs could amount to $479 billion over 15 years.

In addition to the rule’s cost and its questionable legal footing, states are worried that the rule threatens electric reliability. The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council summarized the threat posed by the rule in a February 18 white paper: “It is unconscionable for EPA to finalize a rule that jeopardizes the availability of reliable, affordable electricity to American households and businesses. But, that is exactly what the agency is poised to do absent significant modifications to the proposed rule.”

Real costs, negligible benefits to Americans

For all of the rule’s costs, its climate benefits would be negligible. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has noted that the EPA “did not project the effects of its proposed rule on climate change, even though the express purpose of the rule is to address the effects of climate change.” The coalition found that in 2050 the rule would: reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations by less than one percent; lower global average temperature by 0.016 degree Fahrenheit; and reduce sea level rise by 0.3 millimeters – the thickness of three sheets of paper.

The EPA estimates that climate benefits from carbon-emissions reductions would amount to $31 billion in 2030. This projection rests on a rickety foundation: it counts benefits that would accrue to countries around the globe, not just to the United States. According to a June 3, 2014, paper by the Brookings Institution, the EPA’s methodology for calculating climate benefits represents a “dramatic shift” in policy. In 2010, the administration determined that Americans only receive 7 to 23 percent of a rule’s climate benefits, but pay 100 percent of the costs. Applying this metric to the proposed rule governing carbon emissions from existing power plants, the U.S. would reap climate benefits of $2.2 billion to $7.1 billion, versus compliance costs of $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030 according to EPA.

The beginning, not the end, of efforts to eliminate fossil fuels

The president’s fiscal year 2016 budget requests that Congress fund additional incentives for states to submit implementation plans. On February 26, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asked Congress to provide $25 million for states “so they can work on these plans effectively” and another $25 million for the agency to provide technical assistance to the states. She requested $4 billion to “support the states who want to move faster and farther” in cutting carbon emissions. This demonstrates that the administration views each state’s carbon-emissions reduction rate under the rule as a floor, not a ceiling. Never mind that a majority of states are scrambling to figure out what the rule means and how to comply with it. The EPA has not yet finalized the rule, and is already searching for new ways to ratchet up its requirements.

If a state submits an implementation plan, it will be taking part in EPA’s scheme and will be responsible for the consequences. It will be blamed for higher energy prices and reduced electricity reliability. Families and businesses in the state will feel the real costs, while the EPA will happily point its finger at the state’s “poor” energy choices.

States should avoid the EPA’s trap by rejecting the administration’s rule. “Don’t be complicit in the administration’s attack on the middle class,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the states in an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader last week. “Think twice before submitting a state plan.”

View the article here.

State lawmakers push back against EPA’s Clean Power Plan in Fla., Minn.

Via E&E Publishing:

Scott Detrow

A growing number of state legislatures are trying to insert themselves into the debate over crafting plans to comply with U.S. EPA’s unprecedented effort to lower the carbon footprints of state power sectors.

Pennsylvania and West Virginia have already enacted laws giving their legislative chambers veto power over the proposals their states’ environmental protection agencies ultimately will draft to comply with the Clean Power Plan (ClimateWire, March 5). The influential conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is pushing for other Republican-controlled chambers to pass similar bills (ClimateWire, Dec. 9, 2014).

Earlier this week, a Minnesota House committee approved language mirroring ALEC’s model legislation.

The party-line vote came despite opposition from Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency, which warned that legislative approval would complicate an already-complex process. “We told them that we couldn’t support it,” Assistant Commissioner David Thornton said yesterday, after discussing the Clean Power Plan with reporters and Senate staffers on Capitol Hill. “This is an executive branch proposal out of Washington, and we are the delegated executive branch agency in Minnesota that’s supposed to put the plan together.”

EPA’s draft rules require Minnesota to cut its carbon emissions by 41 percent. Thornton said the state expects to rely heavily on expanded renewable energy sources and efficiency efforts to meet that goal. (Read more about Minnesota’s Clean Power Plan goals at E&E’s new Power Plan Hub.)

Thornton said the agency has two primary worries. “In order to come up with the best possible plan, we’re going to need the best and brightest people in the state helping us,” he said. “And we’re concerned that if … the plan has to go to the Legislature, some of those folks are going to stay away from our process and wait to insert themselves there.”

The second concern has to do with timing. “[Legislative approval] collapses what is already an aggressive 12-month schedule into six months,” Thornton said. States will have one year to develop compliance plans, once EPA announces the final rule this summer. Minnesota’s Legislature only meets for five months of every year.

While Republicans control the Minnesota Legislature’s lower chamber, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party holds the Senate and the governor’s office, so the bill faces long odds of becoming law.

Fla. legislator slams EPA plan as ‘incredible overreach’

It’s a much different situation in Republican-controlled Florida, where a similar bill might see a committee vote later this week. However, Sunshine State lawmakers will likely have final say over Florida’s compliance plan, regardless of whether legislation lands on Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) desk.

That’s because of an existing law giving the state’s Legislature ratification power over any new regulation generating more than $1 million in compliance costs over a five-year window. “At this stage, I cannot imagine a scenario in which we could adopt rules that would have an impact less than $1 million,” Paula Cobb, a deputy secretary with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said during House testimony last week. “So I imagine there’s going to be, at a minimum, ratification by the Legislature.”

Pressed on whether the state DEP would work with lawmakers while developing the proposal, Cobb said, “I cannot see a scenario in which there will not be that collaboration.”

Regardless, Rep. John Wood (R) plans to push forward with his legislative approval bill. “We’re worried that our executive agency might in some way try to respond outside of the rulemaking process,” he explained. “We want to make sure the Legislature is involved in the policymaking concerning this important public issue.”

Wood has major concerns about the EPA rule, which he calls an “incredible overreach of the federal government.” He’s worried a shift from coal to natural gas and renewables could destabilize electric markets and lead to higher rates. “Electricity is the foundation of our society. If you look at what we’ve accomplished and the fabric of our society, everything we live for is based on affordable electricity.”

He and other Florida officials have expressed concerns about expanding the state’s natural gas footprint, due to Florida’s unique geographical makeup and the limited number of pipelines running in and out of the state. “Florida is very vulnerable to storms impacting our grid,” he said. “If it comes to natural gas is the fuel and that’s the only thing … we’re going to have to invest significantly in storage facilities.”

Florida faces one of the steeper compliance rates in the Clean Power Plan — the draft rules require the state to cut its carbon footprint about 28 percent below 2005 levels.

View the article here [subscription required]

Barrasso Joins Push Calling on States to ‘Just Say No’ to Power Rule

Via E&E Publishing:

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter

Senate Republican Policy Chairman John Barrasso last night became the latest GOP senator to call on states to boycott implementation of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, arguing in an email memo that doing so would undermine the controversial rule.

The Wyoming Republican echoed the theme of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) column last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader that refusal by the state to submit implementation plans for the existing power plant rule might lead to a lessening of its restrictions (Greenwire, March 4).

“Forcing the EPA to impose a federal plan may undermine the agency’s ability to implement all of the rule’s provisions,” the Barrasso memo stated.

EPA has pledged to propose a federal implementation plan for the rule this summer when it releases the final Clean Power Plan. The model plan would act as a backstop if states fail to submit approvable state plans by deadlines beginning next year.

But McConnell and Barrasso both assert that EPA needs state consent to force the rule’s full measure of emissions reductions on utilities. The rule uses four emissions-reduction categories — or “building blocks” — to set state targets. Without state plans, the Republicans argue, EPA would be limited to Building Block 1 — or inside-the-fence-line reductions from minor heat-rate improvements on-site at power plants. And the agency must reduce its targets accordingly, they argue.

There would also be a messaging advantage from refusing to comply, the Senate Republican Policy Committee memo said.

“If a state submits an implementation plan, it will be taking part in EPA’s scheme and will be responsible for the consequences,” the memo states. “It will be blamed for higher energy prices and reduced electricity reliability. Families and businesses in the state will feel the real costs, while the EPA will happily point its finger at the state’s ‘poor’ energy choices.”

Barrasso’s missive came ahead of today’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing in which state officials will sound off about the benefits and downsides of the rule (E&E Daily, March 9). Barrasso, a senior panel member, will introduce Todd Parfitt, director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, who will discuss his state’s opposition to the draft and the adverse effect it would have on coal.

State officials lay out their concerns

No state has yet said it will subscribe to the “just say no” strategy, though some have hinted they’re considering it. The EPW panel points to 32 states in which a high-level state official signed a letter expressing significant concerns about the proposal, or in which legislation is moving to disapprove or limit its implementation.

Texas Public Utility Commissioner Kenneth Anderson said in an interview with E&E Daily yesterday that he would like to see his state submit a plan, but only if EPA finalizes a rule the state deems to be workable.

To do that, EPA would have to overhaul its draft to get rid of interim state targets that phase in after 2020. That timeline would not allow Texas to plan, site and construct transmission and pipeline infrastructure to support expansions in low-carbon energy, Anderson said.

He also said the federal agency should correct problems Texas sees with the way EPA uses its four building blocks to calculate state responsibilities — a method he said is riddled with internal contradictions that have resulted in Texas’ being assigned a tougher-than-average emissions target. The proposed rule would require the Lone Star State to slash utility-sector emissions 40 percent by 2030, compared with a national average of 30 percent.

“Until we know what the final rule looks like, there’s no way to know whether it’s even possible to do a state implementation plan,” Anderson said.

If Texas chooses to implement, its PUC would contribute to a plan-writing process that would likely be led by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. But the state Legislature must also act to give the state agencies authority to write the rule, Anderson said, which was also a complicating factor in Texas’ response to EPA’s greenhouse gas permitting program. Texas’ Legislature only meets every other year. EPA had to take over permitting for a time before Austin passed laws that allowed it to comply.

Anderson also expressed concern that state plans would be federally enforceable, a fact he said could grant EPA more leverage over states than they currently have.

“The problem is that, at least under the Clean Power Plan, most of what EPA would have the states use in order to implement it — the dispatch of gas, the expansion of renewables, increased energy efficiency — those are items that EPA has no authority over now,” he said. “This commissioner is extremely disinclined to give either the EPA or third-party plaintiffs the ability to get involved in the structure and operation of our energy markets, where they have no authority now and couldn’t get authority under a federal plan.”

State lawmakers in a variety of states have also moved legislation aimed at limiting their agencies’ response to the rule.

One of the most recent of these is a bill sponsored by South Carolina state Rep. Joshua Putnam (R) that would prevent the state from submitting its plan until judicial review has concluded on the rule.

In an interview, Putnam said he wanted to make sure the state would not waste resources implementing a rule that would ultimately be overturned.

“The federal government continues to push more regulation on the state,” he said. “At some point, the states are going to have to say, ‘D.C., you’re going to have to figure this out yourself and stop burdening the taxpayers.'”

Putnam said he expects that EPA wouldn’t step in with an FIP, because his bill would allow the state environmental agency to prepare a rule that would go into effect when litigation concluded.

But EPA’s proposal requires states to submit implementation plans by deadlines ranging between 2016 and 2018, depending on if they apply for extensions or participate in regional schemes.

And some experts warn that it is not clear that EPA lacks the authority to write an FIP that delivers the same reduction requirements included in its proposal — though those demands might fall directly on power plants rather than on state governments (Greenwire, March 10).

And EPA has argued that if states do not submit plans, they will forgo the flexibility written in its draft, which would allow the state to safeguard its own interests.

But Barrasso’s memo dismissed that notion.

“Flexibility in this context means little more than an invitation for states to choose the method by which their economic wounding will be performed,” it says.

See the article here [subscription required]

Debate Grows Louder Over States Saying ‘No’ to Clean Power Plan

Via Energy & Environment Publishing:

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter

Foes of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan are weighing the legal and political pros and cons of a “just say no” approach to the draft rule aimed at curbing heat-trapping greenhouse gases from power plants.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week urged states to not prepare plans for implementing the rule. Cooperating with the Obama administration, he said, would undercut legal and legislative efforts to kill the rule and allow EPA to impose a rule that exceeds its legal authority (Greenwire, March 4).

The Kentucky Republican’s call amplified an idea that had been circulating for months among industry representatives and policymakers, who say states have much to gain and little to lose by refusing to comply with the EPA rule.

In an article published by the Federalist Society last November, authors Peter Glaser, Carroll McGuffey and Hahnah Williams Gaines wrote that the Clean Power Plan seeks to enlist states to do what EPA cannot — write rules that pressure U.S. coal-fired power producers at the expense of ratepayers and grid reliability. The result, they argue: State officials, not EPA, will be blamed for price spikes and grid woes.

And some state leaders have suggested they won’t cooperate, including 15 governors who asked EPA last September about what would happen if they didn’t turn in plans.

“You have states that feel like they don’t want to be the public front for this,” Glaser, a partner at Troutman Sanders LLP, said in an interview. “So they’re better off either not submitting a plan or submitting a plan that they think is reasonable, although it may not be in compliance with EPA’s requirements.”

 

E&E’s Power Plan Hub keeps you up to date on the latest national and state-level developments on EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations for the power sector. Go to E&E’s Power Plan Hub.

If EPA responds by enforcing a federal implementation plan (FIP), as it has promised to do, “then so be it,” Glaser said.

A federal plan is likely to be very similar to the kind of state plan that EPA would approve anyway, he said, and might ultimately be less restrictive because EPA has fewer tools than states do for regulating the power grid.

EPA cannot order a state to enact a renewable energy standard or demand-side efficiency law, or set up one of its own as part of a FIP, Glaser and his co-authors contend.

If EPA aims for the kinds of emissions reductions in its federal model plan that it contemplates in its draft, the agency has little choice but to issue a “hard limit” on the operation of coal-fired power plants, whether or not alternatives are available to provide backup power. Such a plan could fly in the face of EPA’s pledge that its rule would not compromise grid reliability, they wrote.

“Given the stakes involved, it is hard to imagine that EPA would want to take this action,” they wrote.

If states craft strategies to meet EPA’s targets, any policy they put forward — renewable or energy efficiency mandates, carbon trading systems — will become federally enforceable as soon as EPA approves the plans, the article says. Not only would a state then have to seek EPA permission to modify or repeal its own energy policies, the lawyers wrote, but it will have armed third parties and environmental litigants with new legal grounds to sue for their enforcement.

High stakes for coal

No industry has more to lose under the Clean Power Plan than coal, which is nearly unanimous in its support for the “just say no” strategy. The Kentucky Coal Association has touted that approach to state policymakers (Greenwire, March 4).

And National Mining Association CEO Hal Quinn said in an interview last week he wasn’t concerned that the federal implementation proposal EPA plans to unveil this summer will be worse for his industry than plans coal-friendly state governments could have crafted on their own.

For one thing, Quinn, like Glaser, expressed confidence that the EPA rule would ultimately be overturned in court, making compliance a moot point. And the two also agree that EPA can’t step in with renewable energy and efficiency mandates for states.

But Quinn went a step beyond the Federalist Society analysis, asserting EPA also lacks authority to require coal plants to run less to lower emissions.

“The question is, what would EPA be able to really do?” he said. “And at best they’d probably be stuck with implementing one or maybe two building blocks of the four.”

The EPA draft uses four emissions-reduction categories — “building blocks” — to set state targets, although it does not demand that states use them in their implementation plans. Coal advocates have long held that EPA is only on firm legal ground if it mandates incremental heat-rate improvements at coal-fired power plants — an “inside-the-fence-line” approach EPA designates as the draft’s first building block.

If EPA is forced to implement one or two building blocks, the rule would be orders of magnitude less stringent than the current proposal. The Clean Power Plan assumes that coal-fired power plants can cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 6 percent through such improvements, though numerous commenters have said there is only potential for, at most, a 2 percent improvement at most plants.

The bulk of the rule’s reductions are assumed to come from its three other building blocks; fuel switching to natural gas, zero-carbon energy and demand-side efficiency. If the agency can’t require reductions in those areas, Quinn said, it must also scale back the rule’s target to a level achievable with whatever is left.

All of this, Quinn said, shows McConnell was right in advising state officials.

“I think what Leader McConnell laid out the other day in his op-ed is showing that this thing is a whole house of cards, and that the issue of ‘What can EPA do if a state doesn’t submit a plan?’ is really the other side of the same coin,” he said.

Rather than compelling states to take the Clean Power Plan more seriously, the threat of a federal plan might instead show how limited EPA’s regulatory authority actually is, leading to a less stringent rule, he said.

Call for ‘market-based’ regs

But “just say no” is by no means the consensus, even among conservatives.

Jerry Taylor of the libertarian Niskanen Center decried the strategy as a misguided rhetorical exercise that would lead to more repressive regulation.

“God put conservatives on Earth to minimize regulatory costs, not to inflate them in futile attempts at making a point,” Taylor said in a post Friday on the Niskanen Center’s website.

Taylor argues states should take the flexibility EPA has embedded in its existing power plant rule and run with it — enacting “market-oriented regulations” that would be less restrictive than the command-and-control models EPA would be likely to employ.

Like the Federalist Society’s paper, Loyola Law School professor Daniel Selmi also panned the idea in an essayfor the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.

“The ‘just say no’ slogan is pithy, and as an immediate political response, states may be tempted to follow its advice by taking legislative or executive action that prevents or hinders the state from responding to the upcoming rules,” he wrote. “Before taking that step, however, states should carefully consider the consequences. If they do so objectively, it becomes apparent that opting out of the process at this point can result in significant disadvantages.”

Like the Federalist Society essay, Selmi says EPA could opt to require the power plants themselves to meet the full state targets.

But unlike Glaser and his co-authors, Selmi does not assume that EPA would shy away from this outcome. The agency could pursue “severe” emissions cuts in line with what the draft requires — which average 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 — and apply them directly to power plants.

Such a FIP would be subject to legal challenge, he acknowledges. “Still, the state’s inaction could very well result in EPA imposing the legal mandate entirely on the power plants, and they are certain to be quite disturbed by that outcome,” he said.

Power-sector lawyers for Van Ness Feldman LLP echoed this concern in an article published last month inPublic Utilities Fortnightly, which urges utilities to get involved in state implementation plan processes even if they are also backing litigation to change or kill the rule.

“It seemed to us for utilities this ‘just say no’ strategy carries a good bit of risk,” said Kyle Danish, a partner with Van Ness Feldman and one of the article’s authors. In an interview yesterday he noted that proponents of the strategy assume that industry’s legal case will prevail, resulting in a rule that is considerably narrower in scope. But that outcome will not be known for years.

“It seems to make sense to us that with so much at stake, utilities have an interest in working to ensure that they have a rational plan that they can live with, so that they’re covered regardless of the legal outcomes, and they’re not left effectively bearing the full brunt of any downside risk,” he said.

See the article here [subscription required.]

GOP’s ‘Just Say No’ Climate Strategy Stirs Doubts for EPA

Via Politico:

By Erica Martinson

Supporters of President Barack Obama’s climate regulations are getting worried EPA may have few tools to use if states decide to follow conservatives’ advice and refuse to cooperate with the agency on climate change regulations.

Questions abound about how the agency would impose its own climate plans on behalf of states or make sure the states that do submit plans actually stick to them.

Also up in the air: whether the agency has the right to hit the violators with penalties that could even include the loss of federal highway dollars — one of the main fiscal weapons Washington has used to get states to toe the line on everything from motorcycle helmet laws to underage drinking.

But the agency is declining to say whether highway dollars would actually be at risk. And conservatives like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell call their “just say no” strategy the surest way for states to create momentum to block or undo Obama’s climate initiative — a strategy that mirrors the GOP’s state-by-state efforts to undermine Obamacare’s health care exchanges.

The growing squeeze comes as EPA is months away from finishing rules that would require states to cut the carbon dioxide output of their power plants. As with the Obamacare exchanges, any state that fails to submit an adequate plan for cutting pollution will have to live with a federal anti-pollution plan crafted by EPA. And EPA’s requirements would probably be much more expensive and onerous than any plan a state would create for itself, many analysts say, even if the feds don’t impose additional penalties.

Refusing to write your own plan “just means somebody else is driving your car,” said Susan Tierney, senior adviser at Analysis Group who supports EPA’s rulemaking. States can probably produce a “much more compelling and lower-cost option,” she added.

One key issue is the difference between what EPA could enforce on its own through a federal plan versus what the states could do themselves. States that are game have various options, including increasing their reliance on lower-pollution sources like natural gas, ramping up renewable energy and pushing energy-efficiency programs that reduce consumers’ power demand. Such programs have been the route taken by East Coast states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with little drama.

But EPA can’t control the state legislatures, transmission organizations, utility commissions and other entities that would make those measures possible. That means a federally created anti-pollution plan would probably focus directly on requiring greenhouse gas cuts from individual power plants, which would probably be much more expensive.

And that could hurt EPA’s ability to roll out the climate policy, according to agency supporters like William Becker, the executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, the trade association for state and local air regulators.

The “naysayers,” he said, who are “painting such a bleak picture and trying to constrain the flexibilities that EPA is offering to the states are going to have just a chilling effect on the ability of agencies to implement this program in the way that the public expects states to do.”

Others go even further, arguing that EPA has a mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act to hold back millions of dollars in highway funds and to impose strict limits on industrial construction permits in states that refuse to comply.

A July white paper by lawyers from the D.C. firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer also argues that states could lose highway money or face onerous construction restrictions if they don’t comply.

Don’t fall for those scare tactics, say EPA’s adversaries, who argue it’s far riskier for states to play along with the agency. Instead, they say, refusing to submit plans would save states time and money, increase opponents’ leverage in Congress and leave time for court challenges that could eliminate the climate regulations altogether.

“Think twice before submitting a state plan — which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits,” McConnell said in an op-ed last week that stoked the debate. “Refusing to go along at this time with such an extreme proposed regulation would give the courts time to figure out if it is even legal, and it would give Congress more time to fight back.”

The New York Times editorial board denounced McConnell’s efforts as “reckless” Monday. “Mr. McConnell’s call to governors to sit on their hands is a travesty of responsible leadership,” the board wrote. It added that “governors who follow his advice may not get the result they want, since, under time-honored environmental law, noncompliant states could face imposition of a blanket federal alternative that is not tailored to local conditions.”

But Hal Quinn, CEO of the National Mining Association, argued that the Clean Air Act allows states to decide whether to submit a compliance plan.

“Suggestions that Leader McConnell’s op-ed is asking states to do something illegal is wrong,” he said. And besides, Quinn said, submitting a state compliance plan is “building a Trojan Horse for EPA to come in … if you stumble or fall in meeting those targets.”

McConnell’s argument has its roots in an argument made in a Federalist Society paperpublished in November, which asked: “What if states just said no?”

“The notion that EPA could impose sanctions if States fail to submit the plan EPA demands can be dismissed quickly: EPA does not have that authority,” said the paper, written by three attorneys from the firm Troutman Sanders.

Serious players strongly disagree about whether EPA could impose either mandatory or voluntary sanctions under the section of the Clean Air Act it’s using to write the power plant rules. And the agency itself isn’t doing much to clear up the question.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy gave only an indirect answer last week after Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe asked her how the agency would handle states that drag their feet. “Would the EPA consider withholding federal highway funding?” the Oklahoma Republican asked. “Or would you say no?”

“This is not a traditional [State Implementation Plan] under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” McCarthy responded. “There’s other processes for us to work with states. Clearly our hope is that states will provide the necessary plans. If not, there will be a federal system in place to allow us to move forward.”

EPA is writing its climate regulations under the Clean Air Act’s Section 111, which requires the agency to establish a procedure for reviewing compliance plans that’s “similar” to the procedure outlined by Section 110, which governs some other pollution rules. But it’s not clear whether the agency’s full enforcement authority applies.

The proposed rule does not directly address the issue, though it says the 111(d) state implementation plans will be different from the air quality standard plans “in several respects, reflecting the significant differences between CAA sections 110 and 111.”

The debate is part of a host of uncertainties about the exact impact of EPA’s upcoming regulations, which will provide the states with carbon-reduction goals but allow them a wide berth of flexibility in how to get there. But the intersection of politics and policy has proved to be a rough road.

One state that’s indicative of that conflict is McConnell’s own home state of Kentucky, where the administration of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has been working closely with EPA on crafting a plan to comply with the climate rule.

While the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet “appreciates Sen. McConnell’s comments and concerns,” it doesn’t agree, said spokesman Dick Brown.

“The overwhelming majority of our stakeholders are telling us to make preparations to submit a plan,” Brown said. “Failing to follow through with creation of that plan means Kentucky would most likely have to abide by a Federal Implementation Plan that would cause harm to Kentucky’s economic future and burden the next administration with challenges not of its making.”

In the end, the question of mandatory penalties is likely to be hashed out front of federal appellate judges.

Meanwhile, McCarthy said her agency will stay on track.

“My only comment would be that EPA has been working with the states well before we put pen to paper on this rule,” she said after last week’s hearing. “That will not stop. And we continue to have tremendous dialogue with the states — including the state of Kentucky.”

View the article [subscription required.]

EPA Imposes Costly Power Plan on Tennessee, All States

Via The Tennessean:

American households and businesses currently reaping the benefits of low oil prices may soon lose them to higher electricity bills. For this, we can thank an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan designed to replace low cost power supplies with more expensive and less reliable ones.

A growing number of energy experts, including overseers of the Nation’s electricity grid, regional power transmission authorities, power plant operators and energy economists are all warning that the EPA Clean Power Plan will lead to higher energy bills for Tennessee’s consumers and a less reliable electricity grid for the country.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) — an international regulatory body charged with assessing the adequacy of our electric power system — says implementing EPA’s plan will be difficult, if not impossible, without weakening the reliability of the electricity supply. That’s because states are asked to reduce their use of affordable electricity and transform their electricity grid based on four wholly unrealistic assumptions about future energy demand, shifts in sources of electricity generation, adding more variable power sources and reduced energy use. EPA ironically calls these “building blocks” but experts say they actually cause the plan to crumble.

For example, NERC found EPA underestimated the number of power plants that will be closed by its new emissions standards – and overestimated the amount of both new power sources and energy efficiency it hopes will 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, regional power authorities across the country are sounding alarms too. The Southwest Power Pool warns 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.

Because EPA uses an overly simplistic analysis of what is actually possible in the real world, engineers at the Electric Power Research Institute predict the agency’s plan will result in a less diverse and increasingly degraded grid – the same grid American households and industries rely on for essential electric power. American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities, echoed this dire forecast after its tests predicted similar outcomes.

Then there are the costs. Energy economists say that replacing more affordable sources of electricity with costlier and less reliable ones means EPA’s Clean Power Plan will become the Costly Power Plan.

That’s what Tennessee may call it. When independent economic consultants recently examined EPA’s plan, they found Tennessee’s retail electricity costs would spike as high as 18 percent when already more than half of the state’s households spend 20 percent of their after-tax income on energy.

Tennessee’s industries will pay another $116,000 per year for power, putting manufacturing jobs at risk. As coal use declines, demand for other energy sources to fill the gap will raise Tennessee’s natural gas costs by more than one billion dollars over ten years. Studies examining two broad options for implementing the EPA plan found the result was the same. The choice is between dumb and dumber. There are no low cost options being offered.

More disturbing than these warnings may be the Obama administration’s determination to ignore them. Despite fears of what lies ahead, the EPA is blithely steering the nation’s electricity supply into the dark at high speed, wholly in denial about the costs. Icebergs lie dead ahead, yet EPA stays the course, risking a titanic crisis.

The nation’s governors don’t have that luxury. Long after this administration is gone from office, state officials will be left to explain power outages and higher utility bills to their constituents.

Roman emperors made their architects sleep under the bridges they built, just to be sure. Today, the nation’s governors are being asked to sleep under the bridges EPA builds. That should keep governors awake at night.

Hal Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association, a nationwide trade group representing the U.S. mining industry based in Washington D.C.

View the article here.

State Officials to Lock Horns on the Clean Power Plan

Via E&E Publishing:

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear this week from states weighing how — and whether — to implement U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The five officials who will address the panel Wednesday are from state agencies and public utility commissions tasked with writing and advising on state implementation plans for the draft existing power plant rule for carbon dioxide.

They come from states across the political spectrum with widely different energy landscapes. And their views of EPA’s draft run the gamut from intense opposition to support for even tougher emissions curbs.

Three of the states represented at the hearing are among the proposal’s most vocal opponents: Wisconsin, Wyoming and Indiana.

The governors of all three states signed a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in September calling the draft a federal agency’s bid to seize long-established state authority over the power sector.

The attorneys general of Indiana and Wyoming also joined in a pre-emptive lawsuit against EPA last summer aimed at forcing it to withdraw the rule before it becomes final. The suit claims EPA lacks the legal authority to regulate power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act because it is regulating the same source category for a different set of pollutants under another section of the law. The argument stems from a decades-old discrepancy in the language of the statute and is likely to resurface when the rule becomes final.

Ellen Nowak, a commissioner at Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission, is likely to tell the Senate panel Wednesday what she told a joint hearing in the state Legislature in January — that the rule would drive up electricity rates and harm Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector.

It is a view shared by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who wrote in comments to EPA that the proposal does not respect the $4.5 billion in new fossil fuels investments the state has made in the last 15 years. It also gives little thought to effects on reliability, he said.

The likely Republican presidential contender also lamented in his comments that the Clean Power Plan fails to take into account strides Wisconsin has already made in low- and no-carbon energy, instead assigning his state tougher targets because of those past investments.

“States that have already obtained large CO2 emissions reductions, such as Wisconsin, are being required to reduce emissions more than those that have not taken significant steps to decrease emissions,” he wrote, counseling EPA to correct this “perplexing approach” in the final version.

Todd Parfitt, director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, represents a state that is a major producer and exporter of both fossil fuels and renewable energy. It produces 40 percent of the nation’s coal, and its largely rural population relies heavily on coal-fired generation.

Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead (R) wrote in his comments to EPA that the proposal would leave Wyoming ratepayers on the hook when still-new infrastructure is shuttered and would kill coal mining jobs. It is also on legally shaky ground, he said.

“The EPA does not have the legal authority to propose, finalize or enforce this proposal,” he said. Indiana will be represented at the hearing by the state’s Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Thomas Easterly.

In his comments to EPA, Easterly said that Indiana is in the process of formulating its own energy policy aimed at making power more affordable and reliable. The Clean Power Plan is not compatible with those objectives, he wrote.

“Indiana is concerned that the proposed rule will lead to Hoosiers, particularly those in low income socioeconomic brackets, losing heat and power because they will not be able to pay rising utility costs,” he wrote.

EPA officials, including McCarthy and acting air chief Janet McCabe, who is a former assistant commissioner for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, argue that the rule will be a boon to low-income families because it will boost demand-side efficiency, thereby lowering electricity bills.

The Senate environment panel will also hear from two prominent state officials who are likely to sing the praises of the Clean Power Plan — and make a pitch for strengthening it.

California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols and Michael Myers, who heads the affirmative litigation division of New York State’s Environmental Protection Bureau, are likely to argue that EPA was well within its legal authority in putting forward a proposal that reaches beyond the fence line of a power plant to achieve systemwide emissions cuts. But the two are likely to add that California’s experience and that of the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative show that more reductions can be made in a cost-effective manner than EPA assumes in its rule.

Nichols has offered California’s cap-and-trade program as a compliance option other West Coast states should take advantage of in crafting their Clean Power Plan responses.

And Myers has argued before the D.C. Circuit Court in support of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) and California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), who is running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), submitted comments to EPA with 10 other attorneys general defending the agency’s legal basis for the draft on many of the points raised by its opponents.

The hearing comes as EPA continues to sift through more than 3 million comments on the Clean Power Plan, which is due to be finalized this summer together with curbs for modified and new power plants. Also due this summer is a federal implementation plan proposal that EPA says is intended to both guide states in crafting their own plans and show states that opt not to draft plans what they would face in a federal model.

There is a growing drumbeat from some state and federal lawmakers and industry representatives urging states not to submit their plans. The Clean Air Act might allow EPA to move ahead with a federal plan in those cases, they say, but it is unlikely to be as strict as the plans EPA is encouraging states to adopt, and the whole rule might be defeated in court.

But the agency has said it expects most states to write a compliance plan that takes into account their own policies and power mix.

The proposal sets deadlines for state submissions starting in June 2016.

Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, March 11, at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 406.

Witnesses: Ellen Nowak, chairwoman, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin; Todd Parfitt, director, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality; Thomas Easterly, commissioner, Indiana Department of Environmental Management; Mary Nichols, chairwoman, California Air Resources Board; and Michael Myers, chief, Affirmative Litigation Section, Environmental Protection Bureau, New York State Attorney General.

See the article here.

PUC Chair Blasts EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Via Texas Lawyer:

Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, doesn’t mince words about her views concerning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

On March 2, she gave a speech titled “Power, the EPA and Texas” at the Texas Tech Law School’s Energy Law Series and said that the proposed Clean Power Plan is really a carbon tax.

“The EPA recognizes that it doesn’t have the authority to pass such a tax,” she said. “So the EPA is trying to get states to come up with ideas to make it workable.”

Nelson, a Texas Tech Law School graduate herself, told the law students at the event that the Clean Power Plan seeks to force power companies to use more renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and fewer fossil fuels, such as coal. She said this is a problem because wind and solar energy are inconsistent, and fossil fuels are needed to power the grid during times the wind dies down or the sun isn’t shining.

Texas will be required to reduce coal emissions by 51.91 percent, greater than combining the next nine other leading states that generate coal emissions, according to Nelson. In addition, she said that Texas will be required to increase its renewable capacity by 153 percent, greater than 29 other states combined.

“Increasing renewable resources by the required 153 percent would mean that Texas would have more renewable resources on the grid than state usage in the spring and fall,” Nelson said.

The cost of implementing the Clean Power Plan to the state will be an increase of $10-$18 per megawatt hour by 2030, Nelson said, citing a group called The Brattle Group. But she said that she believes the increase will be closer to $35 per megawatt hour.

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the independent system operator that manages most of the electric load in Texas, estimates that the Clean Power Plan alone could increase customer prices by up to 20 percent by 2020,” said Nelson.

She explained that the proposed Clean Power Plan has four building blocks: make fossil fuel power plants more efficient; use low-emitting power sources, such as natural gas combined cycle units, more frequently; use more zero- and low- emitting sources (dispatch to new clean generation, including wind and solar); and use electricity more efficiently.

All resources in ERCOT, including generation and demand response, bid into the ERCOT market every five minutes, according to Nelson. ERCOT accepts the bids of the resources that are most economic.

“With ERCOT, everything competes with each other. For example, now the price of natural gas is attractive because it is not expensive and has gone down compared to where it was in 2008,” she said.

Nelson said that instead of having economic dispatch within ERCOT, the Clean Power Plan would require environmental dispatch, where resources are dispatched based on a mandate from the EPA.

“Switching ERCOT’s emphasis from economic to environmental is the same as a carbon tax,” Nelson said.

Enesta Jones, an EPA press officer based in Washington, D.C., said, “The agency is in the process of reviewing more than 3.5 million comments as we work to finalize the Clean Power Plan this summer.”

Ron Curry, head of EPA’s Region 6, which serves Texas and four other states, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

See the article here.

McConnell to States: Don’t Comply with EPA Climate Rule

Via The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging state officials not to comply with the Obama administration’s signature climate rule.

McConnell, a stringent opponent of the regulation, said states should not submit a design plan for limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants.

The rule, which the EPA is working to finalize this summer, requires states cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

“Think twice before submitting a state plan — which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits — when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won’t be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism,” McConnell said.

McConnell not only calls on Kentucky’s state leaders, but every state to join in pushing back against the regulation.

Each state has different targets they must reach in curbing emissions, and each is required to submit a design plan for those reductions to the EPA based on the energy makeup of the state.

The EPA contends the plan affords states flexibility and can cut emissions as they see fit. Rather than shutting power plants, states have the ability to build up solar or wind, or launch energy efficiency programs.

Still, McConnell and other Republicans argue the rule would hurt the U.S. economy and kill energy jobs “under the guise of protecting the climate.”

“Refusing to go along at this time with such an extreme proposed regulation would give the courts time to figure out if it is even legal, and it would give Congress more time to fight back,” McConnell said.

See the article here.

 

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Gives WV Legislature Authority in Clean Power Plan Compliance

Via The State Journal:

By Sarah Tincher, Energy Reporter

As West Virginia authorities begin to figure out compliance strategies for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed legislation allowing the WV Legislature to have final say in the state’s implementation plan.

The Clean Power Plan, proposed June 2, 2014, aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power sources under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

Under previous state law, the state Department of Environmental Protection has the ability to create and submit the state’s compliance plan directly to the EPA, but the newly passed bill requires the plan to be submitted to the Legislature for approval first.

Mike Duncan, president and CEO for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, applauded Tomblin’s move on the organization’s blog, Behind The Plug.

“This law will ensure West Virginia’s elected officials have a say in the regulations that ultimately impact their state’s families and businesses,” Duncan stated. “Legislation like H.B. 2004, as well as similar actions by other state legislatures, underscores broad opposition across the country to EPA’s overzealous and illegal proposal.”

The bill passed the House overwhelmingly in the beginning of February before the Senate passed the measure Feb. 18 with a vote 24-10.

EPA is set to finalize the rule by summer 2015, and states are expected to be required to submit compliance sheets by summer 2016. EPA is also creating a federal compliance standard that is expected to be implemented in states that either don’t submit a compliance plan or whose plan doesn’t meet the rule’s standards.

View the article here.

Devastating Report Details Impacts of Obama’s EPA Regs on Louisiana

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) today released the following statement in response to a Pelican Institute policy brief published in conjunction with a study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, regarding the economic impacts on Louisiana of the Obama Administration’s environmental regulations put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Pelican Institute found that three of the EPA’s regulations will have the following effects on Louisiana:

  • 22%: The amount by which electricity prices will increase on families in Louisiana.
  • 16,260: The number of jobs Louisiana will lose by 2030.
  • $968 million: The total cost of the three EPA regulations to Louisiana.
  • $1,962: The amount by which real disposable income in Louisiana will fall by 2030.

“This study confirms what hard-working taxpayers have suspected – these EPA regulations will have a devastating impact on Louisiana families and cost us thousands of jobs while reducing our standard of living,” Rep. Scalise said. “The Obama Administration’s radical global warming agenda is devastating to American energy, and these unobtainable proposals will lead to more electricity plants being shuttered and higher costs for families. The findings of the study show that President Obama and his liberal lieutenants will pursue their radical agenda regardless of the devastating impact on our economy, including thousands more good jobs being shipped overseas, and they must be rejected!”

Specifically, the policy brief focuses on the economic impacts of the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule and the two carbon dioxide emissions standards for new and existing power plants.

Last week, Rep. Scalise questioned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy about the economic effects of these EPA rules on Louisiana. Below is a transcript of his remarks at the hearing with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

TRANSCRIPT:

SCALISE: I want you to answer some questions about a study that just came out by the Beacon Hill Institute at the Suffolk University in Boston. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the study that just came out. Definitely with Suffolk University! They just came up with an economic impact study on the effects of the new EPA rule on United States and I would ask unanimous consent if we could submit this report into the record.

COMMITTEE: Without objection

SCALISE: In this report they go through and they break down not only national impacts, which are devastating, but they go state-by-state. So, in my state of Louisiana the Pelican Institute for Public Policy which looks at a lot of this information and looks at economic data,they one went and broke this down and looked at the report, and according to what they have seen you would have an impact in my state of Louisiana alone of increase in utility rates by 22 percent. Electricity prices would go up 22 percent by 2030. The state of Louisiana alone would lose over 16,000 jobs based on these rules. You just have to ask …and I will read a quote from Kevin Kane, who is the president of Pelican Institute, “along with the significant costs it is worth noting the increases in electricity prices would disproportionately affect lower income Louisianans to spend approximately 70 percent, seven-zero, 70 percent of their after tax income on energy. These costs need to be taken in to consideration by state and federal policy makers.” Are y’all taking in to consideration devastating impacts like this on rules that you are proposing where you would increase people’s electricity rates? Lower-income people that would be harmed heavily by this by 22 percent and over 16,000 jobs lost in one state alone. And, of course, the national impact this would have?

MCCARTHY: I don’t know what study you are talking about, or what rules they are looking at, but I do know that

SCALISE: This is the Suffolk University study that looks at the impact of the EPA rules.

MCCARTHY: I’m happy to take a look at it but I know that Congress has actually charged us to do exactly that. To take a look at the cost and benefits of all the economic impacts.

SCALISE: So I would urge you to look at this study and taking the impacts to see if it will hurt…

MCCARTHY: And we have done that and we have not seen the damage that you are indicating. We have seen…

SCALISE: What we have seen is a 340% increase in electricity prices in the Midwest alone. It’s happened. This isn’t a study. That happened in the Midwest. Anyway, if you can look at this study-

MCCARTHY: Ok, I would be happy to.

SCALISE: -in relationship to these propose rules, please don’t kill all of these jobs.

See the full release.

Cold Enough for You? EPA Might Make it Worse

Via The Knoxville News Sentinel:

Right now, Tennessee gets 42 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. But what would happen if the state were suddenly forced to seek all of its electric supply from other sources? Could Tennessee experience crippling shortages of power during peak use? And would households see a steep increase in the monthly cost of heating their homes?

That’s the baffling scenario that’s looming ahead of us as President Barack Obama looks to implement strict new rules on carbon emissions. Coal-powered electrical generation is now on the chopping block, thanks to a hastily assembled plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to shutter hundreds of domestic coal-fired power plants.

Essentially, what’s at stake is the concept of “grid reliability” — whether supply exists to meet the current, massive U.S. demand for electricity.

For much of the country, the EPA’s mandate is troubling, because right now roughly 40 percent of the electricity in the United States comes from coal-fired power generation.

Under new regulations from the EPA, many of these plants would be effectively forced out of operation.

And to date, no one is saying how that power will be otherwise produced. Wind, solar and natural gas have all been suggested, but none of those sources are capable of providing reliable and affordable electricity to the degree that coal can. Some states are able to rely on alternative means, like wind and hydropower, but for much of the country that simply isn’t an option.

The importance of coal in generating electricity was all too clearly demonstrated last winter, when coal-fired power plants worked overtime to heat homes and businesses during a deep freeze.

In fact, American Electric Power, a major utility company that helps supply power to roughly a dozen states (including Tennessee), reported that 90 percent of its coal plants slated for retirement under pending EPA rules were running at full speed last winter just to meet peak demand.

Despite record-setting production in the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere in the U.S., increased production of natural gas simply can’t compensate for a shortage of coal plants. This is due in part to a lack of infrastructure to deliver gas where it’s needed. But more importantly, natural gas has already been prioritized for home use, not power generation.

A recent report from PJM Interconnection, the regional power transmission group for 13 states, including Tennessee, concluded that without coal plants there could be insufficient electricity to meet peak winter demand.

Under the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, consumers will undoubtedly pay higher electricity bills. But the more tragic problem is the possibility of widespread power outages during the coldest parts of winter.

These worrisome scenarios have so far been swept aside by the federal government. This planned shift away from coal is simply moving ahead with no regard for the consequences. And so, in light of the recent PJM report, the EPA’s regulatory plan amounts to a very reckless toying with the nation’s power grid.

The truth is that there’s simply no way around the use of coal to help ensure affordable and reliable power in the current market. That’s why state utility commissions and regulators from 22 states have sent formal comments to the EPA expressing concerns that the Clean Power Plan will jeopardize reliable and affordable electricity throughout the nation. That’s why the U.S. needs a diversified power portfolio that includes coal to meet the nation’s electricity needs.

Terry Jarrett is an attorney and has served as a Missouri Public Service commissioner and chairman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Committee on Critical Infrastructure.

See the article here.

 

We Cannot Assume Reliable Energy

Via The Hill:

I’ve written before about the dangerous economic consequences our country faces as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulations to reduce carbon emissions. It is important to note that the climate policies being promulgated by the Obama administration will harm Americans, and especially the African-American community, in the form of skyrocketing energy costs. In a similar fashion, these regulations will jeopardize our access to reliable electricity, putting our economy and frankly, our entire way of life, at risk of being forever changed — and not for the better.

How will the EPA’s regulations impact our power grid? By taking aim at resources that provide the base-load power our electric grid needs, namely coal, the EPA’s proposal will shut down a significant portion of our coal fleet, leaving our grid dependent on less reliable resources. That means electric utilities won’t have the power needed to serve their customers, which could result in compulsory power rationing and even widespread power outages. Last year, 89 percent of American Electric Power’s coal plants currently slated for closure were working at capacity to help meet energy demand through the coldest days of winter, when people needed it most.

Our businesses need dependable energy and predictable utility bills to meet the demands of customers and clients and, ultimately, to grow. If a butcher’s refrigeration unit goes out from a power outage, spoilage can occur — leaving him without anything to sell, hurting his businesses and his workers. Similarly, if a business’s computer system loses power — and almost all businesses today rely on some type of operating system — that company loses the ability to track and process its operations and is left unable to fill orders.

Beyond the impacts business owners face due to weakened electric reliability, those who can least afford higher energy bills will be most affected as the EPA’s proposal will dramatically raise electricity costs from coast to coast. Higher costs could leave many unable to pay their monthly bills unless they dip into reserves or, worse, are forced to make tough choices between other critical services.

This list of examples is endless, but the end result is the same: systematic and widespread damage to our economy.

President Obama and his EPA have attempted to curb these realities by pushing propaganda claiming that climate change is a top-of-mind issue for the majority of Americans and minority groups in particular. This is simply untrue, as evidenced by a poll conducted last year, which found that African-Americans voters place jobs and the economy far above climate change. In fact, only 3 percent of those polled listed climate change as a top threat to their community.

Reliable power is a luxury that many parts of the world have never known. When I travel internationally, I am always struck by the lack of electricity access some countries still face. Returning home to the United States after these trips makes me only more grateful that our country has the power we need, when we need it.

Access to reliable electricity is not just a luxury, however. It is part of the circulatory system driving our country’s economy. We cannot take our supply of reliable electricity for granted, because if the EPA gets its way, our future isn’t looking bright.

Alford is the co-founder, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

See the article here.

State Attorney General Testifies Against Proposed EPA Rules

WASHINGTON — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told a House panel on Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new regulations beyond its authority that would do harm to her state.

“The Obama Administration is intent on following an agenda that ignores the plain language of the laws passed by Congress and has created a perfect storm of federal regulations that will result in economic disaster for a state like Arkansas,” she said.

Rutledge testified at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Regulation’s subcommittee on the Interior that was focused on three proposed EPA rules that Republicans oppose: the Clean Power plan, more stringent ground-level ozone standards and changes to the definition of the Waters of the United States.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., challenged the claims of economic devastation made by Rutledge and other opponents of the EPA regulations.

“We’ve heard these sky-is-falling claims before,” she said.

Republicans on the panel were more sympathetic with Rutledge, expressing similar concerns that EPA was overreaching its authority at the expense of rural and low-income communities.

Rutledge offered specific complaints about the three proposed rules.

The Clean Power plan, she said, would require the state to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 45 percent by 2030 — the 6th highest rate of reduction in the nation on a state that ranks 46th in per capita income.

“These policy objectives will stifle job growth and limit Arkansas’s ability to compete across the country and the globe,” Rutledge said.

EPA is also proposing new limits on ground-level ozone from 75 parts per million to as low as 60 parts per million. The change, she said, would result in almost all of Arkansas’ having trouble attaining the more stringent standard, imposing penalties that would hurt the economy.

“Anyone who has ever visited Arkansas would be hard-pressed to believe that our beautiful mountains have a smog problem,” she said.

EPA is also attempting to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States” that fall under federal Clean Water Act regulation, but Rutledge said the proposal adds to the confusion.

The new definition “is so expansive that it would likely control land use activities over most of the United States,” she said.

Although EPA and the Corps of Engineers says the change would have no impact on farmers, Rutledge says the promises are of little comfort.

Farmers in Arkansas, she said, are worried because of the actions of the agencies, not their words. In 2014, the Corps took action against a Tennessee row crop farm and found part of the farm field to be “waters of the United States” because the area contained features such as a bed, bank and high water mark that made it a tributary to an adjacent water of the United States.

“Attorney General Rutledge seems to be more interested in playing politics than in helping Arkansans. One of her first official acts after being sworn in was to sue EPA to block new clean air protections. In her testimony today, she sounded more like a coal industry executive than a lawyer representing Arkansas.

The Arkansas Sierra Club issued a statement criticizing Rutledge for her testimony in opposition to the Clean Power plan.

Glen Hooks, chapter director, said the plan represents an opportunity to create good-paying jobs, improve air quality and public health by imposing more stringent pollution standards on the state’s coal-fired power plants.

“In her testimony today, she sounded more like a coal industry executive than a lawyer representing Arkansas,” he said in a statement.

See more here.