ORLANDO, Fla.—What’s the latest on federal regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from coal-based generation—and what does it mean for electric cooperatives?
At last week’s annual meeting, NRECA regulatory experts Ted Cromwell and Dan Chartier gave a primer on the status of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), its pending replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, and a proposal on carbon emissions from new coal generation.
This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize the ACE rule to control carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants and issue a final CO2 rule for new or renovated units. NRECA believes both proposed rules are a marked improvement over the rules they will replace.
“Building consensus with our members and presenting a unified voice with the administration was a key step in making our case,” Cromwell, senior director of environmental issues, told co-op leaders March 12.
NRECA members and staff engaged EPA in a series of meetings prior to the release of the proposed ACE rule and are working to address concerns regarding requirements on the “new source” rule, Cromwell said.
“So far, repealing and replacing the CPP with the ACE represents a positive advocacy effort that should allow most facilities to operate through their remaining useful life and protect those facilities from nuisance case-by-case lawsuits,” Cromwell said.
NRECA also spoke at EPA’s announcement to replace aspects of the 2015 “new source” rule and filed final comments on the agency’s proposal for a more achievable rule developed under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act.
NRECA recommended that EPA conduct an “endangerment finding” for CO2 emissions regulated under its “new source” proposal to meet their legal requirement under the Clean Air Act. The association also supported EPA’s proposed determination that carbon capture and sequestration cannot be considered as the “best system of emissions reduction” because the technology is not commercially proven nor broadly geographically available or cost effective.
“The 2015 version of the new source rule assured no coal-fired plants would be constructed and the Clean Power Plan would drive a rapid transition away from coal-fired generation to renewables, nuclear and natural gas,” Cromwell said.
Asked about market forces favoring natural gas over coal, Chartier noted that NRECA wants to assure a glide path for co-op generation, 60 percent of which is produced using coal.
Premature shutdowns of many co-op coal units to comply with the CPP would have required members to pay for outstanding debt plus finance replacement power, he said.
“Money is still in the balance. We are talking about providing a transition for members who still have costs tied to coal plants,” he said.
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