Environmental Regulation, Legislative Conference

Green Tint Seen in Energy Choices

By Todd H. Cunningham | ECT Staff Writer Published: May 1st, 2013

Environmental rules are impacting today’s electricity generation, transmission and distribution, as well as options for the future, John Novak, NRECA executive director, environmental issues, told participants at the 2013 Legislative Conference.

NRECA’s Ted Cromwell (left) and Rae Cronmiller discuss environmental issues at the Legislative Conference. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)

NRECA’s Ted Cromwell (left) and Rae Cronmiller discuss environmental issues at the Legislative Conference. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)

Environmental Issues team members outlined priority issues during an April 29 forum.

Dorothy Kellogg, senior principal, environmental policy, spotlighted water issues and a solid waste initiative.

One issue is the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule on effluent limitation guidelines for electric units. It would hit coal-based facilities hard, proposing conversion of liquid discharges to dry bottom ash and fly ash. The timeframe for comments is “ridiculously short”—60 days—and NRECA advocates a 90-day extension, to Oct. 1.

Another concern is EPA’s final rule on cooling water intake structures. EPA estimates that the cost of the rule, designed to protect fish and not to protect human health or water quality, would exceed benefits by a ratio of 20-to-1. NRECA opposes the option of closed-cycle cooling towers for all existing plants (they are required for new plants), and favors site-specific assessments of need.

Also on the radar: EPA’s coal combustion residues rulemaking, a proposal that includes both hazardous and non-hazardous treatment options. NRECA supports regulation of coal ash as a non-hazardous waste.

Ted Cromwell, NRECA senior principal, environmental policy, discussed interstate air transport of ozone and fine particulates. EPA’s most recent rulemaking, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, was vacated in federal court, he noted, and the agency hopes for U.S. Supreme Court review.

Meanwhile, Cromwell noted, EPA’s previous Clean Air Interstate Rule remains in effect, and the agency is working with state officials to address interstate pollution under the framework of the appeals court’s decision.

Turning to regional haze, he indicated that EPA is moving to meet a 2013 settlement deadline with environmental groups to approve or reject state programs. The agency’s presumptive Best Available Retrofit Technology is selective catalytic reduction of NOx and scrubbers for CO2, he said.

States and regulated utilities face a tough battle to convince EPA to adopt less stringent alternatives, Cromwell said.

Rae Cronmiller, NRECA environmental counsel, discussed greenhouse gas standards for fossil fuel-based power plants, a two-step process under the Clean Air Act for regulating both new and existing units. For new units under step 1, EPA proposed a single standard for CO2 applicable to both coal and gas base load generation last April. The standard, however, is based on what might be achievable for gas units only.

The remaining wild card is what EPA might propose under step 2, CO2 requirements for existing units, and the stakes are high. The bottom line for this rulemaking is that the proposal for new units must be modified if new coal is to have any hope, Cronmiller said, while a bad rule for existing units would significantly affect their cost and operation.

Click here to see a gallery of photos from the 2013 Legislative Conference.

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