FERC Conferences Underscore Mounting Concerns with EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 2:46 pm, March 31, 2015

As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wraps up the final of three regional technical conferences today in St. Louis, Missouri we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what others have said at previous conferences.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised that cost and reliability are chief among the growing chorus of concerns coming from experts and stakeholders in the states.

  • In February, at the FERC regional conference in Denver, Michael Hummel of Arizona’s Salt River Project testified that, “the Clean Power Plan as currently drafted will have a disproportionate impact on Arizona and threatens our ability to reliably maintain the electric grid.”
  • The next month in Washington, D.C., Jeff Burleson, Vice President of System Planning of Southern Company, warned that the CPP, “unlike past environmental requirements… is a major overhaul of the electric system that will potentially put serious reliability and operational pressures on the grid.”
  • Ross Eisenberg of the National Association of Manufacturers told FERC, “[the CPP] and its massive redesign of the energy system threatens secure, affordable supply of energy.”
  • National power groups have also implored FERC to play an active role in fixing EPA’s flawed proposal. In Washington, D.C., Jay Morrison, vice president for regulatory affairs at the National Rural Electric Cooperative urged FERC, “Please do not be a potted plan in this instance.  Please be very active.”

Regulators and energy industry experts will likely echo these concerns before FERC in St. Louis.  As this is the final FERC technical conference, we hope all parties are listening closely and are prepared to take appropriate action by withdrawing the CPP.


Spotlight on States: Coal Fuels Missouri

Posted by Julia Treanor at 1:19 pm, March 31, 2015

Regulators, utility commissioners and energy experts are in St. Louis today, attending the third and final Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regional technical conference on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Once again, FERC will hear concerns about the effects EPA’s proposal will have on electric grid reliability.

St. Louis is an ideal location to end FERC’s review of the major impact EPA’s plan will have on our energy infrastructure. Missouri relies on coal for 83 percent of its electricity, which keeps electricity rates affordable at 11 percent below the national average. The state stands to be significantly affected by EPA’s plan and the threat it poses to America’s use of coal-based electricity.

Affordable and reliable power from coal allows Missouri’s manufacturers to employ nearly 258,400 residents – more than 9 percent of the state’s workforce. Beyond keeping electricity reasonably priced for homes and businesses, the coal industry itself provides more than 7,400 jobs to hard-working families.

These jobs and the state’s affordable energy are threatened by EPA’s plan, which requires Missouri to cut its carbon emissions by 21 percent. Missouri Public Service Commission Chairman Robert Kenney calls this target a “virtual impossibility” as “about 80 percent of [the state’s] 21 percent reduction will be required by 2020.”

Missouri regulators like Chairman Kenney understand the energy needs of the Show-Me state far better than EPA. Join the fight to protect coal-based electricity in Missouri by signing up for America’s Power Army.

Guest Blog: Kelley Earnhardt Miller Celebrates Women in the Energy Industry

Posted by Kelley Earnhardt Miller at 11:59 am, March 27, 2015

On the race track and in the office, my brother Dale Jr. and I work hard to ensure JR Motorsports runs smoothly. The dependable, low-cost electricity powering our business is a big part of that effort.

I was excited to join America’s Power last month as a guest blogger. In my first post, I discussed the importance of reliable electricity and the critical role it plays in my life as a business owner, mom and member of my community. This month, I’m excited to celebrate women in the energy industry who help power our lives—an appropriate topic since March is International Women’s History Month.

Thousands of women are employed in the coal mining, railroad and power utility industries in America, a fact that too often gets overlooked. Careers in the coal industry provide high-paying, stable jobs for skilled workers with tremendous opportunity for advancement and growth. With our society’s efforts to encourage girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers, more commonly known as “STEM,” energy jobs are a place where they can gain such skills and in turn help shape America’s energy future.

Investments in energy production are funding cutting-edge technologies and programs that will need the next generation of leaders at the helm. With more than 250 years’ worth of coal within our borders, it’s important that these opportunities be extended to many more generations of women in the future.

I’m thankful to women energy workers not only because their work ensures I have the power I need to do my job, but because they are important role models to our girls who want to dream big and build a career in these fields.

Thanks for reading, and see you in April for my next installment on Behind the Plug.


CPP – Clean Power Plan or “Crowned” Power Plan?

Posted by China Riddle at 9:40 am, March 20, 2015

As a small-town girl, I never expected anywhere I called home to host a monarch, let alone see both places I call home entertain royalty in the same week. As you may have heard, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are visiting the United States. Naturally, their first stop was my new home in Washington, D.C. To finish their tour, however, the royal pair is dropping by…my old Kentucky home?

Yes, the successor to Britain’s throne is speaking at a Louisville symposium for health and the environment. Although this event is definitely out of the ordinary, it isn’t what I found most surprising when contemplating their royal visit.

During a recent appearance in front of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, EPA air chief Janet McCabe was asked why public hearings weren’t held in states most impacted by the Clean Power Plan. Ms. McCabe’s answer? EPA selected locations they felt most “comfortable” visiting. Few stakeholder locations made the list, as EPA ignored repeated invites to coal-producing states, including an invitation to Kentucky extended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

It is this question that baffles me – how could another nation’s prince be more comfortable visiting Kentucky than officials from our own government?

EPA didn’t feel “comfortable” enough hearing the concerns of those most affected by the Clean Power Plan, yet their regulations will force Americans to face job losses, higher energy costs and less reliable electricity. EPA’s attempt to unilaterally control how we produce and use energy has me asking – who is wearing the crown here? Prince Charles or EPA?

EPA should remember America is not a monarchy before the Clean Power Plan leaves us with a royal mess.


Witnesses at House Hearing Declare the Clean Power Plan Unconstitutional

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 1:52 pm, March 19, 2015

“EPA’s [Clean Power Plan] proposal raises grave constitutional questions, exceeds EPA’s statutory authority and violates the Clean Air Act.”

– Professor Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School

This quote aptly sums up the discussion at a hearing this week hosted by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (KY-01) invited several scholars and state regulators to respond to the legal and cost issues associated with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

It comes as no surprise that witnesses and legislators alike shared serious concerns with the constitutionality of the CPP. The proposed regulation amounts to a federal power grab, infringing on states’ authority to manage and regulate electricity generation within their borders.

Allison D. Wood, an environmental attorney with Hunton & Williams LLP and one of the witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing, noted “EPA’s proposed section 111(d) rule…seeks to regulate an enormous part of the economy. The rule suffers from numerous legal deficiencies, including whether EPA even has authority to issue it.” She also said that when it comes to the perceived legality of its promulgation of the rule, “EPA is incorrect.”

Professor Tribe elaborated on Ms. Woods’ sentiment when he said, “The obscure section of the Clean Air Act that EPA invokes to support its breathtaking exercise of power in fact authorizes only regulating individual plants and, far from giving EPA the green light it claims, actually forbids what it seeks to do. EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts – all at once. Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.

Of course, the problems with the CPP didn’t stop with its questionable legal foundation. It was clear during the hearing that the economic consequences of the proposal will be felt far and wide.

As Representative Fred Upton (MI-06) noted, “the last thing job creators need is an expensive regulation likely to drive up energy prices.” Witnesses and legislators also decried the high costs of a regulation that, even if carried out as EPA demands, will result in only negligible environmental benefits. Representative David McKinley (WV-01) told witnesses “there’s something illogical about putting our economy at risk” only to diminish sea level rise by the thickness of three sheets of paper.

The CPP will come at a high cost to our local economies and communities, but it’s not only businesses that will be affected by the proposed regulations. Donald van der Vaart, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said, “This will be a very expensive rule… The people who are going to bear the cost of the Clean Power Plan are those who can least afford it.”

Legal scholars, industry experts, state and federal lawmakers and others agree: the CPP is costly, overreaching and illegal. It must be withdrawn.


Spotlight on States: Coal Fuels Arizona

Posted by Julia Treanor at 4:42 pm, March 17, 2015

Coal is an important part of Arizona’s diverse energy portfolio, which relies on a variety of fuel sources to provide electricity to its more than 6.7 million residents. Despite being a leader in solar energy and home to our nation’s largest nuclear plant, Arizona still depends on coal as its primary source of affordable, reliable power.

In addition to providing nearly 40 percent of Arizona’s electricity, coal acts as a base-load fuel source when brutal summer heat hits. In fact, 25 percent of the energy consumed in Arizona homes is solely for air conditioning, more than four times the national average. By carefully planning what energy combination works best for Arizona, regulators ensure the state’s electric grids can meet demand, especially when temperatures soar well above 100 degrees.

CoalFuelsAmerica_Bill T_FINAL_03.17.15

Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will make meeting this demand much harder for Arizona. The agency’s regulations require the state to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 52 percent – the second-highest target in the nation. To make such a drastic reduction, Arizona will be forced to effectively eliminate coal from its energy mix.

State leaders in Arizona are united in their opposition to EPA’s proposal, with everyone from the Governor to the Attorney General to the head of the public utilities commission speaking out against the plan. In a January panel on the Clean Power Plan, Henry Darwin, director of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality, noted that Arizona’s “120 degree summers” require the use of “every single resource in order to generate electricity.” By forcing coal-fired power plants offline, EPA’s plan takes direct aim at the state’s ability to provide reliable electricity during times of peak demand. Susan Bitter Smith, chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, shared similar sentiments about the Clean Power Plan, recently telling the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “if we had to meet the EPA’s standards as they’re required right now … we couldn’t keep the lights on in the state.”

Learn how you can help protect affordable electricity in Arizona and in your state: sign up for America’s Power Army to receive alerts on activities and events throughout the year.   


What do Indiana, Wisconsin and Wyoming have in Common? They Oppose EPA’s Overreach

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 8:35 am, March 11, 2015

Officials from Indiana, Wisconsin and Wyoming are on Capitol Hill today to testify about the consequences of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

While we don’t know what these officials will say, we know from previous comments that they are united in their opposition to the CPP and share many of the same concerns:

Last September, Tom Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, shared his concerns with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, saying “Hoosiers know that coal means jobs and coal means low-cost energy […] In examining how the proposed 111(d) regulations further our mission, I have come to the conclusion that the proposal will cause significant harm to Hoosiers and most residents of the U.S.”

Ellen Nowak, commissioner with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission says when it comes to EPA’s CPP – projected to cost the state of Wisconsin between $3 billion and $13 billion – she “wouldn’t put that in the ‘reasonable’ category.”

Todd Parfitt, director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said in the Department’s comments that “WDEQ’s review finds that the Proposed Rule is fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn principally because EPA lacks statutory authority to proceed with this rulemaking.”

We’ll certainly hear more of these concerns today and in the coming weeks. When we do, it’s important to remember these three states have more in common than their participation in this morning’s hearing. Coal-based power supports job creation, economic growth and low-cost electricity in each of these states. EPA’s proposal seeks to diminish the use of affordable, reliable electricity from coal and place the costly consequences squarely on the shoulders of consumers in Indiana, Wisconsin, Wyoming and every other state in the nation.


The Morning Consult: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Threatens to Turn the Lights Out on America

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 10:53 am, March 10, 2015

This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on March 3, 2015.

The Washington Post profiled Sharon Garcia, a single mom from Pueblo, Colorado, last year who suffers from a state policy that shuttered coal plants in favor of costlier, less reliable fuel sources. Ms. Garcia and her family – emblematic of so many other U.S. families – are forced to live in darkness at times, just to conserve energy so as not to face yet another sky-high electricity bill.

As of last July, the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant regulations have led to the announced retirement or conversion of more than 350 coal-fueled generating units throughout the country. Now, EPA’s most disastrous, not to mention costliest, regulatory measure yet – the Clean Power Plan – threatens to shut down even more of our nation’s coal-based power plants, limiting our supply of affordable electricity and severely impacting the reliability of our electric grid.

EPA wants to supplant coal with resources like natural gas, which poses significant transport issues and price volatility concerns, as well as more renewable resources that are nowhere near “mission ready.” To transform our nation’s power delivery system to fully utilize these unpredictable fuel sources will be a massive, time-consuming and expensive undertaking, projected to cost more than $1 trillion. In the short-term, American consumers will suffer the immediate consequences of power outages and forced electricity conservation.

In its primer on the Clean Power Plan, EPA claims the measure “provides enough time for utilities to make changes without affecting reliability.” EPA Administrator McCarthy also alleges that “EPA is not going to threaten energy reliability.” Electric grid operators, state officials and energy industry experts, however, paint a very different picture of the plan’s impact on electric reliability.

The Southwest Power Pool was among the first grid operators to release a study detailing major concerns with EPA’s proposed regulations, warning of “voltage collapse and blackout conditions” if the plan proceeds as scheduled. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the main grid operator serving 23 million Texans, also issued an analysis of the proposal, which found EPA’s proposal could result in “transmission reliability issues due to the loss of fossil fuel-fired generation resources in and around major urban centers.”

Seventeen former and current public utility and public service commissioners – officials that, unlike EPA, possess substantial knowledge about electricity generation – also joined the chorus of alarmed experts, stating that “Our concern with the EPA’s proposed carbon rules is that they fail to adequately forecast the serious economic and reliability impacts of dramatically reduced or even elimination of coal-fired generation.”

The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council summarized it best in a recent paper, saying “Unfortunately, preliminary analyses released by qualified experts point to one inescapable conclusion: EPA’s proposal puts the reliability of our nation’s electricity supply at risk.”

As a nation, we should be pursuing a smart “all of the above” energy strategy that allows us to protect our environment and harness cleaner energy, but that doesn’t undermine energy reliability in the process. EPA’s dangerous plan must be stopped, before Americans are left without the low-cost, dependable power we need, when we need it the most.