Environmental Regulation

NRECA: EPA’s New Power Plant Rule Raises Concern

By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 3rd, 2014

NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson said the latest carbon dioxide rule from the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at existing coal-based generation raises concerns for cooperatives across the country that are struggling to keep costs down for their members.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy unveils rule to limit carbon dioxide from existing power plants, saying “states, cities, and businesses have already blazed the trail.” (Photo Credit: Joshua Roberts/Newscom)

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy unveils rule to limit carbon dioxide from existing power plants, saying “states, cities, and businesses have already blazed the trail.” (Photo Credit: Joshua Roberts/Newscom)

“Americans count on affordable and reliable energy to power our communities, promote job and economic growth, and keep costs in line for the basic necessities in our family budgets,” Emerson said. “New EPA regulations that add to the price of electricity have serious consequences for our communities, jobs and families.”

Coal fuels about 40 percent of U.S. electric generation, and about 70 percent of the power supplied by co-op owned generation comes from coal.

“America’s electric cooperatives are naturally concerned that these regulations will increase electricity prices and force power plant shutdowns, thereby harming the economy and jobs of hard-working Americans,” Emerson said. “However, there are a lot of details to work through in this proposal and additional details that will be outlined in yet-to-be-developed state plans.”

On June 2 the EPA unveiled a rule to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from fossil-fuel based generation by 30 percent by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels. The rule is expected to be finalized next summer with compliance required between 2020 and 2030.

At the request of a large portion of Congress, NRECA, cooperative members and other stakeholders, the agency will allow 120 days for public comment to facilitate a thorough analysis of the regulation’s impact on consumers rather than the usual 60 days.

The rule sets emission reduction goals for each state and gives states the flexibility to choose how to meet the goal using a combination of measures that reflect their particular circumstances. States have one to three years to submit their final plans to EPA and 15 years to fully implement them, according to the agency.

EPA outlined measures states could take. They include installing demand-side energy efficiency, conservation and power plant efficiency programs; setting renewable energy standards; switching to natural gas or co-generation; or using more nuclear power and renewables. Other options involve upgrading transmission, investing in energy storage, and retiring fossil units. States also may join with other states in regional emission reduction plans.

Dakota Electric President and CEO Greg Miller (L) and Great River Energy VP Jon Brekke (R) met with EPA’s McCarthy in Burnsville, Minn. (Photo By: Dakota Electric)

Dakota Electric President and CEO Greg Miller (L) and Great River Energy VP Jon Brekke (R) met with EPA’s McCarthy in Burnsville, Minn. (Photo By: Dakota Electric)

States can determine the “timing and magnitude” of emission reduction requirements for power plants “to address individual challenges” facing rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, the agency said.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy described the proposal as “based on proven technologies, proven approaches” that will retain coal and natural gas as part of a “diverse national energy mix.”

“States can pick from a portfolio of options to meet regional, state, and community needs…” she said. “The good news is states, cities, and businesses have already blazed the trail. Our clean energy revolution is unfolding in front of us.”

McCarthy heard from several co-ops, as the agency prepared “The Clean Power Plan” called for by President Obama a year ago. Emerson, NRECA Board Vice President Mel Coleman, who also serves as CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, and top executives from nine other member co-ops met with McCarthy at the agency’s Washington headquarters December 6.

“We put a lot of issues on the table,” Emerson said following the hour-long discussion.

McCarthy traveled to Basin Electric Power Cooperative in February, where representatives from Great River Energy, the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Co-ops and Minnkota Power were on hand.

President and CEO Greg Miller of Dakota Electric Association and Jon Brekke, vice president of membership and energy markets at Great River Energy, met with McCarthy May 28 while she was in Burnsville, Minn., to talk to city officials. Great River is Dakota Electric’s wholesale power supplier in Maple Grove, Minn.

“I wanted Administrator McCarthy to hear about the positive things we are pro-actively doing without government mandates, and I wanted to speak on behalf of our member-owners who have to pay the increases for any government regulations that are passed down from Washington,” Miller said.

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