(WASHINGTON, DC) – A diverse group of Midwestern states and electricity sector stakeholders has submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to shape the Agency’s impending rules aimed at reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants. The group—the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative—heads to Washington on December 16th to meet with top officials at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the EPA to discuss their comments.
“This region has a strong interest in making sure that EPA rules to reduce carbon emissions meet environmental goals in the most cost-effective way possible,” said Brad Crabtree, vice president for fossil energy at the Great Plains Institute, which convenes and facilitates the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative.
“The Collaborative represents one of the only broad-based efforts of its kind in the country. Industry executives, environmental advocates and state officials found common ground on input to EPA and the Administration on a proposal that would impact the region’s electricity sector for years and decades to come,” said Crabtree, noting that some Collaborative participants support EPA regulation in this area, while other participants would have preferred congressional action. The Collaborative has received national attention for forging consensus among coal-reliant power companies, environmental advocates and states with Republican and Democratic administrations.
EPA issued proposed rules to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants in June. The Agency took comment on its proposal through December 1st and expects to finalize the rules in June 2015. EPA’s rules will prescribe carbon emissions goals for each state and establish guidelines on how states can meet those goals. States will then develop and submit plans for EPA approval.
Collaborative members discussed the design of the federal guidelines and their potential implementation by Midwestern states. In their comments, they provided EPA a range of feedback, including asking the Agency to identify ways to credit early action by states and power companies, consider more holistic treatment of natural gas power plants as possible replacements for retiring coal plants, and assist states in developing plans and in working together regionally to meet federal requirements.
The group supports the flexibility provided by EPA in its June 2014 proposal, including the ability for states to rely on energy efficiency, renewable energy and other compliance options to meet future emissions reduction goals. “As state officials, our recommendations to EPA are always stronger when we have the joint input of our industry and environmental constituents,” said Vince Hellwig, senior policy advisor to the executive of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “We are grateful that the Collaborative provided a venue for accomplishing this.”
“Given the great challenge we face to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector, solutions will require the input and support of a broad range of interests,” said Doug Scott, chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission. “The Collaborative’s consensus comments reflect that approach.”
“This region has a unique stake in the proposed EPA rules. We hope EPA will carefully consider the comments of this diverse group,” said Andy Kellen, Vice President for Power Supply Resources for WPPI Energy in Wisconsin.
“The comments from our group reflect our collective aim of achieving the most cost-effective emissions reductions from the power sector, while allowing for broad flexibility among states to come up with the reduction plans that best meet their needs,” said Charles Griffith, climate and energy programs director for the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“Stakeholders this diverse rarely speak with one voice to EPA and the Administration, so this group sends a very powerful message,” said Franz Litz, program consultant with the Great Plains Institute.
Going forward, the Collaborative will consider in more depth approaches that states may take to implement the anticipated federal requirements to reduce power plant carbon emissions, including better understanding the potential cost and other impacts of specific options.
A full Collaborative participant list and the formal comments to EPA can be found on the Great Plains Institute website https://www.betterenergy.org/projects/midwestern-power-sector-collaborative.