EPA GHG REGS: Climate Advisor Change, Legal Challenges, NARUC Resolution and other News

Posted by Matt Stanberry and Amalia Pleake-Tamm on Dec 11, 2013 10:00:00 AM

EPA-GHG-REGsThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently developing its first greenhouse gas performance standards for both new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. AEE believes these new GHG standards could increase opportunities for both supply- and demand-side advanced energy technologies to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, depending on the ultimate regulatory design.


This is the first of a regular series of blog posts chronicling important news about these EPA regulations and their development.


At the White House, longtime Obama aide and climate change advisor Heather Zichal has stepped down and been replaced by her deputy, Dan Utech. Utech, a former Hillary Clinton aide, will head up coordination efforts around the President’s Climate Action Plan, which includes the EPA’s power plant GHG regulations. AEE recently held a federal policy breakfast discussion with Zichal where she discussed the role of the advanced energy industry in achieving climate goals. Also headed to the White House is John Podesta, former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, who will advise the President on energy and climate, health care reform, and other "executive actions."


Meanwhile in Congress, House Energy and Commerce Committee members from coal states are lodging objections to the legality of EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Claiming that the 2005 Energy Policy Act allows technologies to be considered “adequately demonstrated” only if they have been successfully used in projects without government funding, these members of Congress are seeking a withdrawal of the draft regulations, which rely on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as a means of getting coal-fired power plants to achieve the emissions standard. At the same time, the Department of Energy plans to invest $84 million in 18 advanced CCS projects for new and existing plants. These projects are located in 10 different states (CA, CO, DE, IL, KY, MA, MO, NC, NY, and PA).


The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners recently held their annual meeting in Orlando.  On Nov. 20, the commissioners association passed a resolution calling for EPA to recognize states’ primacy in regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants. As adopted, NARUC’s resolution was a compromise between drafts offered by WV Commissioner Jon McKinney, whose version highlighted the importance of coal in the generation fleet, and CO Commissioner Joshua Epel.  The resolution begins on page nine.


Legalese for Laypersons


At the end of each post, we hope to provide you with some deciphering of the legal language around the Clean Air Act as the EPA applies it to power plant greenhouse gas emissions. Today we look into “adequately demonstrated,” as referenced in discussion of CCS, above.


The term is used in the definition of technical feasibility in the Clean Air Act. Technical feasibility is a factor in determining whether a technology is the Best System for Emission Reduction, and therefore suitable for meeting a standard set by EPA. If a technology is not in routine use, the EPA Administrator may determining the technology can be relied upon for meeting a given standard through qualitative means (e.g., by predicting the technology's success based on its performance in other industries).  Similarly, the Administrator may use expectations of future cost reduction in determining the technology is available at a reasonable time and cost.

Topics: EPA GHG Regs