Report Shows EPA Rule Plays ‘a Guessing Game’ with Reliability — Whitfield
The chairman of a key House Energy and Commerce subcommittee yesterday embraced the U.S. power grid overseer’s statement that U.S. EPA’s greenhouse gas proposal may endanger power supply.
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said in a statement that the North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s new report, released yesterday, underscores what he has said for months: that the Clean Power Plan is “unworkable” and a threat to grid reliability (Greenwire, Nov. 5).
“EPA is seeking to eliminate one of our nation’s most abundant and affordable sources of power, but the administration has yet to provide honest answers about just how damaging the consequences will be for our nation’s power grid and our economy,” Whitfield said. The Subcommittee on Energy and Power chairman is a strong proponent of his state’s coal industry.
The report raised concerns about the EPA draft — especially its first set of carbon reduction targets that would phase in in 2020. Those interim targets ramp up too quickly to allow for construction of the new pipelines and transmission infrastructure needed to allow combined-cycle natural gas units to operate at higher capacity, the report stated. EPA should look at including a “safety valve” in its rule to allow coal plants to go outside the EPA emissions limits if required to ensure adequate power supply, it said.
EPA and its supporters say that the agency has a close eye on any reliability implications of its rule and that states have the flexibly to craft plans that would not create disruptions.
But Whitfield promised continued committee oversight. “We can’t afford to play a guessing game when it comes to energy reliability, and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure American businesses and families are not left in the dark,” he said.
The subpanel has already held three hearings on the Clean Power Plan, including one in September with state energy and environmental regulators (Greenwire, Sept. 9). Republicans and industry have also urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take a more active role in vetting the proposal (E&E Daily, July 28).
Philip Moeller, a Republican member of FERC, said that he supports NERC’s courageous role in assessing reliability implications of EPA’s initiative, and that he wants the final rule to be cost-effective and not endanger reliability. But Moeller said he’s convinced the proposal, as it stands, will not achieve the agency’s goals and will harm grid reliability.
Moeller added that the report validated his concerns that much of the flexibility in the country’s energy system has decreased with the implementation of new mercury and toxins rules.
“When NERC assessed [the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards] it endured harsh criticism from both the chairman of [FERC] and the EPA Administrator but the projections of retirements turned out to be remarkably accurate,” Moeller wrote. “I have had the same concerns that are validated in the NERC report about how the four building blocks as proposed will impact reliability. Most of the flexibility in the system has been removed due to MATS retirements.”
The “building blocks” are a set of assumptions the draft uses to assess states’ ability to reduce power grid carbon intensity.
Moeller said EPA should work with policymakers to improve the siting and permitting processes for new pipelines and wires, and acknowledge that such infrastructure is difficult and timely to site and construct.
“There is no way this amount of new capacity can be built by 2020 under the current regulatory construct,” he wrote. “If EPA wants to get serious about this situation they should work with policy makers to improve the siting and permitting processes for new pipes and wires. That will enable markets to deliver cleaner electricity to the nation.”
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- On November 6, 2014