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.”
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- On March 13, 2015