Acting on a directive from the President, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently developing draft federal regulations to guide states in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. States will use the federal guidelines to devise plans that take into consideration state-specific and regional concerns. Recognizing that the Midwest has unique and significant concerns whenever the power sector is regulated, the Great Plains Institute convened the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative.
In true pragmatic Midwestern fashion, the Collaborative brings together a broad group of power industry executives, state regulators and environmental advocates to find areas of agreement around regulatory approaches that make sense for the Midwest. With funding from the Energy Foundation, and help from experts from the World Resource Institute and Pace Center, Collaborative participants have developed consensus recommendations to EPA. These consensus recommendations are unique because they come from a diverse group and from an important, coal-dependent region.
The Collaborative formed nearly two years ago. Collaborative participants first agreed to set aside the divisive question of whether such emissions reductions are best achieved through EPA regulation or through new Congressional action. Because Collaborative members recognized that EPA intends to propose a rule covering existing power plants, they resolved to recommend how best to craft a rule that addresses the concerns of Midwestern states and the region. They then began a process of patient, respectful dialogue.
Late this fall, the Collaborative reached constructive agreement, forging common ground of national importance among coal-based power companies, environmental organizations and state regulators in a key region of the country that continues to generate a majority of its electric power from coal.
Collaborative members shared their consensus recommendations with senior EPA officials just prior to Thanksgiving. EPA officials were impressed with the unusual diversity of the Collaborative and the significant effort on the part of participants to reach consensus on recommendations at this level of detail, especially for a group representing multiple sectors.
While the two-year road to agreement was a long and sometimes difficult, Collaborative participants have reached a major milestone, offering specific recommendations to EPA that address guiding principles for regulating existing power plants, standards of performance and the form such standards should take, the crediting of early action taken by states and industry to reduce carbon emissions, and the design and implementation of plans by states to meet potential federal emissions reduction requirements flexibly and at lower cost.
Individual Collaborative participants have additional positions—and differences –that go beyond issues addressed in the recommendations. However, they will build off this effort and explore other areas for making further joint recommendations to EPA in the future. They will also seek to assist state leaders in their very important role of devising plans that meet federal guidelines.