The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, requiring states to achieve 30% reductions in carbon emissions, did not get much love at the Carolinas Federal and State Policy Briefing sponsored by E4 Carolinas.
Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) lamented the “bias at the EPA that you can’t trust these state regulators.” N.C. Utilities CommissionChairman Ed Finley dodged a direct answer but emphatically asserted he has “very strong feelings” about the plan.
Almost no one had a kind word. The only exception was in many ways exceptional because it came from former state Rep. Mike Hager. The Republican from Rutherford County spent three terms in the N.C. House — rising to majority leader before he resigned earlier this month — generally opposing environmental regulations as anti-business and counter-productive.
To be sure, Hager is not a fan of the federal plan, he said at the meeting Friday held at Piedmont Natural Gas’ headquarters in Charlotte.
“Would I rather not have seen the Clean Power Plan? Yes. Would I prefer that they phase it in if they are going to do it? Yes,” he said.
But unlike other speakers there, he sees some advantage to the plan.
“It does the allow the opportunity for entrepreneurs to step up and say ‘I’ve got an idea about how we can do things better,’” Hager told the 70 or so attendees. “It will drive innovation.”
The Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations that would require power plants to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve this target, utilities would have to burn less coal and use more wind and solar power.
The rule also encourages greater use of natural gas, which produces less than half the carbon emissions made by coal plants. The plan is currently on hold as more than two-dozen states ( including North Carolina) have appealed the regulations.
The U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to prevent the regulations from going into effec t while they are being reviewed by the appellate courts. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is slated to hear oral arguments in the appeal next month.
Wind, solar tax credits
The briefing covered a number of other issues. There were discussions of the need to encourage more use of nuclear power, opposition by some groups to off-shore wind projects in North Carolina and the possibility that the state could be moving to allow independent renewable power producers to sell electricity directly to customers.
Hudson opined that the U.S. Congress might extend tax credits for solar and wind power beyond last year’s decision to let the current 30% credit stay in place until 2020, after which it will gradually decline to a 10% credit.
“I think there is some appetite in Congress to extend the tax credits,” he said. “I think we need a more comprehensive look at whether we are going to invest in energy through tax credits or research awards.”
Extension of the solar credits may be more likely than wind credits, Hudson said. His own preference, he said, would be to create a tax credit for power production rather than a credit for investment.
But nothing produced the kind of fervor and venom reserved for the Obama plan.
“It wasn’t clean, wouldn’t produce power and isn’t much of a plan,” said Secretary Donald van der Vaart of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. “We should be proud of our role in deep-sixing that horrendous rule, and I don’t think we talk about it enough.”
The plan is not dead, but just on hold for now. Van der Vaart is confident of the state’s legal position that the EPA has exceeded its authority. But he says whether the plan is struck down by the Supreme Court ultimately depends on who fills the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
He also contends North Carolina will achieve a 30% reduction in carbon emissions without the Clean Power Plan.
No pause button
Paul Newton, former N.C. president for Duke Energy and now the Republican candidate to replace Sen. Fletcher Hartsell to represent Cabarrus and Union counties, said the rule is flatly unfair to North and South Carolina.
The rule as written, he said, does not give North Carolina credit for decisions made by Duke (NYSE: DUK) before the rule was announced to replace old coal plants with highly efficient natural gas plants. And it doesn’t give South Carolina credit for SCANA Corp.’s decision, also made before the rule was announced, to build a 2,334-megawatt nuclear plant that will produce power with no carbon emissions.
He said the plan would drive up power costs and hurt the economy in the Carolinas and nationwide.
“We can’t hit the pause button” on building for future power demand, he said. “We can’t agree to just fall behind other countries in (gross domestic product) and economic development.”
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- On August 29, 2016