By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer
To sustain affordable and reliable electricity for rural America, the Environmental Protection Agency must rethink its proposed greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants, cooperative leaders told the agency.
“The EPA’s energy plan goes too far, too fast, jeopardizing the well-being of millions of American families in the process,” said John Novak, head of the environmental issues team at NRECA. “Simply put, the EPA’s proposal will trigger higher prices for many consumers and local businesses.”
NRECA and several co-op leaders presented their perspective on the proposed “Clean Power Plan” at public hearings EPA held in Atlanta, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh on July 29. The agency will hold additional days of public hearings July 30 through August 1.
Novak, speaking at the agency’s D.C. headquarters, said that cooperatives serve more than 90 percent of the persistent poverty counties across the nation—the same communities that are put most at risk by the EPA rule.
“The ramifications from EPA’s proposal will be felt all the way from the generating plant to the toaster,” Novak said.
Since 2009, co-ops have doubled their renewable energy capacity and have made long-term investments in wind, solar and hydro energy production. Co-ops also invested billions of dollars in fossil generation when national policy encouraged coal as a domestic energy resource, he said.
“Cooperatives have played by the rules, but moving the goalposts again—like this proposal would—will result in stranded assets and premature shutdowns,” said Novak.
Dear Schramm, manager of environmental affairs for Wabash Valley Power Association, outlined how the Indianapolis, Ind.-based G&T and the 26 co-ops it serves would be hammered by EPA’s rule for existing units as proposed. The proposal adds another layer of regulatory uncertainty for generators that must meet clean water rules that could trigger non-compliance with clean air rules, she said.
The 120 days for public comment—although longer than usual—is still “not adequate time for all stakeholders to fully grasp and develop necessary plans for complying with EPA’s proposal for existing power plants,” Schramm told agency officials in Washington.
EPA’s rule sets a carbon dioxide emissions reduction goal for each state that would lower national levels of the greenhouse gas by 30 percent by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels. States are expected to develop emission reductions plans subject to EPA approval. Compliance would begin in 2020, with a final compliance target set for 2030.
Public comment on the rule proposed June 2 concludes Oct. 16 and the rule is expected to be finalized next summer.