Worst Week in Washington: EPA’s Clean Power Plan
Officials decry plan as “physically impossible,” “beyond what is legally permissible,” and “choice for many may be between paying an electric bill or paying a mortgage”
EPA’s Clean Power Plan came under intense scrutiny this week in the nation’s capital as regulators and stakeholders met to discuss the legality, cost, and feasibility of EPA’s proposed plan and its impacts on ratepayers and electric reliability.
On Monday and Tuesday, state and utility regulators gathered at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Winter Meeting and expressed broad concerns about the proposal, including EPA’s unworkable compliance timelines and unachievable emissions targets.
“I think it’s pretty clear this is not workable for us,” said Wyoming Public Service Commissioner Alan Minier. EPA’s timelines were described as “physically impossible” and “completely unattainable” by Texas Commissioner Kenneth Anderson.
On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held its first technical conference on the Clean Power Plan. FERC has decided to convene a series of technical conferences at the request of House and Senate committee leaders to evaluate the potential reliability concerns associated with EPA’s proposal.
At the conference, Jay Morrison, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), urged FERC not to be a “potted plant” and sit by as EPA attempts to impose sweeping new regulatory requirements on the nation’s electricity sector. In submitted comments to the commission, Morrison expressed concerns about the high cost of EPA’s plan for consumers: “It may be possible to ‘keep the lights on’ from a physics and technical standpoint, but the economics and the ultimate cost to the consumer in many cases will be prohibitive. The choice for many may be between paying an electric bill or paying the mortgage.”
American Public Power Association (APPA) President and CEO Susan Kelly also urged the FERC commissioners to step up their involvement in EPA’s rulemaking or risk being “chopped liver.” She said to the commissioners: “[The EPA has] come and swept you into the maelstrom, whether you want to be there or not.” She also raised questions about the legality of EPA’s proposed rule, stating, “Its requirements go beyond what is legally permissible under Section 111(d) and conflict substantially with the authority of other federal, state, and local governmental entities.”
Gerry Cauley, President and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), stated that “EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan has the potential to significantly affect the nation’s electric generation resource mix, infrastructure needs, markets and regulatory regimes. Individually and collectively, these impacts raise important considerations for reliability of the bulk power system.”
The concerns heard at this week’s events underscore the fundamental flaws identified in the committee’s oversight of EPA’s proposed plan. As federal and state energy regulators publicly raise their concerns, it has become clear that EPA’s proposed rule is unworkable, outside the agency’s statutory authority, and would result in higher prices for consumers, more job losses, and reduced electric reliability. EPA’s proposal will be subject to further scrutiny next week when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy comes to testify in front of the Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy
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- On February 20, 2015