By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer
Electric cooperatives called on the Obama administration to withdraw its proposed regulation of greenhouse gases from new power plants, calling the planned approach unworkable and technologically unachievable.
“The administration is gambling with the economic well-being of future generations and our nation’s economy. As not-for-profit, consumer-owned utilities, electric co-ops are deeply concerned about maintaining affordable, reliable electricity,” said NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson.
Emerson said co-ops are ready to work with the administration to reduce plant emissions, increase efficiency and develop affordable new technologies.
But she said the rulemaking, announced Sept. 20 by the Environmental Protection Agency, misses that mark by requiring future coal-based generation to employ costly carbon capture and storage technology, which is not currently commercially viable.
That represents a shift from the administration’s “all of the above” energy strategy to “all but one,” Emerson said.
The EPA regulations could disproportionately affect rural communities, which tend to be poorer and spend more per capita on energy than other regions, Emerson cautioned.
The regulations pertain only to future plants. EPA will release separate regulations for existing power plants in 2014 and finalize them in 2015. The agency is acting under the Clean Air Act, which NRECA says is the wrong vehicle to regulate carbon emissions.
Experts believe carbon capture and storage technology is prohibitively expensive and not ready for prime time. The Electric Power Research Institute recently estimated that overcoming barriers to widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage could take 15 years.
A $1.65 billion project in Illinois that includes carbon capture and storage, known as FutureGen, is still in development a decade after President Bush proposed it as a model alliance between government and industry.
By reconsidering the regulations and working with co-ops, the administration can develop effective common sense regulations that reduce emissions without disrupting the economy, Emerson said. “Together, we can improve both the environment and the quality of life for future generations.”