Time to Have Your Say on CO2 RuleBy Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 17th, 2014
The Environmental Protection Agency’s controversial carbon dioxide rule for the nation’s existing power plants will receive intense scrutiny by states and the power sector.
NRECA and electric cooperatives across the country plan to present their views about the agency’s June 2 proposal at four public hearings next month. EPA will host 12-hour hearings July 29 in Atlanta and Denver, July 30 in Washington, and July 31 in Pittsburgh.
“We will have representation at all four hearings to ensure the co-op voice is heard,” said Kirk Johnson, NRECA senior vice president of government relations.
EPA’s rule sets individual carbon dioxide limits for each state to achieve by reducing emissions from fossil generation. The rule is expected to be finalized next summer with compliance required between 2020 and 2030.
The agency is allowing an unusually lengthy public comment period of 120 days for the contentious 645-page rule—a move urged by co-op members visiting Congress during the NRECA Legislative Conference in May.
“Many, many thanks to the folks who really pitched the 120-day comment period to members of Congress during the Legislative Conference,” said Johnson. “I’m convinced that we needed Congress to weigh in on that issue. We’ll need every minute to really analyze this rule.”
Legal experts are already questioning how EPA set individual state limits for carbon dioxide emitted by existing fossil units.
“I think EPA is on very thin legal ground,” said Nathan Richardson, resident scholar at Resources for the Future.
During a June 5 panel discussion at the Washington think-tank, Richardson raised questions about EPA’s decision to allow states rather than regulated utilities to take responsibility for renewable and energy efficiency commitments called for in the rule.
“My guess would be that they’re going to have a lot of trouble with this in the courts,” he said.
Jeffrey Holmstead, who led EPA’s office of Air and Radiation under President George W. Bush, questioned how the agency determined the “best system of emission reduction” as required under the law. It appears EPA requires a transfer from coal generation to natural gas, he said.
“I don’t think that qualifies as a best system. I think that’s legally problematic,” said Holmstead, a partner at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani.