NRECA says the Environmental Protection Agency must rework its proposal to reduce power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides linked to smog in downwind states because it is legally and technically flawed and threatens grid reliability.

EPA’s federal implementation plan for slashing regional ozone would require even power plants with state-of-the-art emission controls to limit operations and install additional expensive technologies so downwind states can attain national air quality standards. The rule is set to take effect next year, with its most substantial requirements due within three years.

“All or a very significant portion of 42 gigawatts of coal-fired electric utility generation capacity within the 25 states addressed in the FIP will likely be forced to cease operation in 2026 because the alternative option of installing additional emission controls cannot be achieved under EPA’s proposed timelines,” said Rae Cronmiller, NRECA’s environmental counsel.

“Additionally, the costs of doing so are excessive and even far above EPA’s estimates of ‘maximized cost effectiveness,’ making that option infeasible for many units.”

In comments to EPA on June 21, NRECA stressed that the Clean Air Act mandates that programs addressing emissions “be balanced with the ability of the power sector to deliver reliable, safe and affordable electricity,” but found that the ozone proposed rule fails on all three.

The agency’s ozone plan “does not take into account the combined impact of existing reliability concerns with the additional reliability impacts of, at worst, significant unit retirements…and, at least, potential outages” of units to add emission control technologies, NRECA said.

“Failing to account for dire consequences of the proposed rule further underscores how EPA is operating far beyond the boundaries of its authority.”

NRECA urged EPA to rethink the rule’s technical analysis, models and datasets and make corrections. EPA also should provide states with adequate guidance and corrected datasets to address their obligations. Further, the agency must work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. and regional grid authorities to ensure reliability during ozone emission reduction tasks.

NERC, in its recent summer reliability assessment, identified key regions of the United States at risk for capacity shortfall and cited concerns for grid security. But NRECA said that EPA ignored the expertise of both FERC and NERC in drafting its ozone proposal to the detriment of all electricity consumers, particularly because it lacks a “safety valve” or process for regulatory relief when reliability is at risk.

Instead, the ozone proposal “will have a dramatic impact … on the energy sector, generation mix, and the ability of 84 million Americans affected by this [plan], if implemented, to receive reliable and affordable electricity.”