Pence to Defy Coal Plant Rules
Indiana won’t come up with its own plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, even if a federal reduction requirement is upheld in court, Gov. Mike Pence said Saturday.
The federal rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, recently was put on hold by the Supreme Court until legal challenges are finished.
That left states in the position of deciding whether to keep working on how to achieve the reductions if the plan is upheld.
The attorneys general of West Virginia and Texas, who had taken the lead in the multi-state challenge to the rule that Indiana also joined, have told states they should “put their pencils down.”
Pence said he already had decided Indiana would not move forward with its own plan.
Under the rule, Indiana would have had to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated per unit of electricity more than 38 percent from 2012 levels by 2030.
“That was the right decision. We’ll stand by that,” Pence said in an interview while in Washington for a meeting for the National Governors Association. “For me, it won’t be a ‘pencil’s down’ order. We’ve never picked a pencil up.”
Pence said it’s important that as many states as possible stand firm against the Clean Power Plan, and “Indiana was poised to continue to do just that when this stay came.”
If the emissions reduction requirement is upheld, states that don’t submit a plan for achieving the reductions will have one imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
An October slide presentation about the Clean Power Plan by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management stated that both environmental groups and the utility industry have told state officials they don’t want Indiana to default to a federal plan.
And an official with the Edison Electric Institute, the largest trade association of electricity providers, told the state legislature last month that the Clean Power Plan is likely to be upheld.
“It appears that EPA has crafted a very legally defensible rule,” the institute’s Karen Obenshain told a Senate panel. “Even though the court’s decision may nibble around the edges of the rule, we think the guts will remain intact at this time, unless the Supreme Court does something dramatic.”
Obenshain’s comments, however, came before the unexpected decision of the Supreme Court to put the rule on hold. But that 5-4 decision was made before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
States had been working to meet a September deadline for either submitting a compliance plan, or asking for an extension of up to two years. Emissions reductions were to begin in 2022.
Pence called the Supreme Court’s hold on what he dubbed the “Costly Power Plan” a victory for Hoosier ratepayers and for “the rule of law.” He said one study had shown Indiana power rates could increase 20 percent.
The EPA estimates electricity rates in the region that includes Indiana would only be about 1 percent higher in 2030 than they would be without the rule. The EPA also argues the health and other benefits delivered by the reductions outweigh the cost. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the proposal has the side effect of reducing other pollutants, such as those that contribute to soot and smog.
Purdue University’s State Utility Forecasting Group has been modeling the cost of different compliance strategies. Doug Gotham, the forecasting group’s director, said his report is being reviewed, and he’s waiting for state officials to tell him whether it can be released.
Pence said he has no problem with releasing the analysis.
“I’m always in favor of facts and information being available,” he said.
Jodi Perras, the Indiana representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said Indiana can’t ignore the ongoing shift away from coal, regardless of what happens to the Clean Power Plan.
“We can put our head in the sand and pretend it’s not going to happen,” Perras said. “But I think a wise leader of the state of Indiana would start to work on that transition and not play politics with it.”
The Sierra Club wants Indiana to focus on replacing coal-fired electricity with renewable fuels, including wind and solar, and by increasing energy efficiency. That would create jobs in Indiana as well as provide health and environmental benefits over burning more coal or even natural gas, environmentalists argue.
Indiana, along with Ohio and Pennsylvania, have the highest annual damages from energy production because of the amount of coal-fired power generation there, according to an analysis published last month in the journal Energy Policy.
Gotham said Indiana does have the potential to ramp up reliance on wind energy, but it might end up being cheaper to purchase wind energy from a western Plains state.
Indiana’s power companies have been reducing their carbon footprint but need to know what’s going to happen to the Clean Power Plan before making the major investments envisioned by the federal rule, said Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association, which represents investor-owned utilities.
“We do need to see just what the legal system is going to do,” he said.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments in the case in June and could have a decision by the end of summer. The losing side is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court, which could rule in 2017.
See the article here.
- On February 22, 2016