Posts filed under ACCCE News

Courts must step in and stop EPA’s brazen overreach

This column originally appeared on FoxNews.com on May 5, 2015.

It’s been said that ‘timing is everything’ and time is just one of the issues at stake in the legal proceedings surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. Specifically, the Court must decide if a proposed federal regulation, like the CPP, can be struck down before it is finalized.

In this case, that would be the right decision.

Last month, attorneys on behalf of Murray Energy Corporation and a bipartisan coalition of 15 states argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit seeking to have the Court dismiss EPA’s plan. One of the arguments made by EPA is that the Court must not dismiss the rule because it is still tentative, could change, and the EPA could still “even withdraw the proposed rule”.

When it comes to the Clean Power Plan, however, the EPA is clearly talking out of both sides of its mouth. As EPA attorneys seek to convince the courts the proposed rule could be influenced or even withdrawn based on the feedback received in the public comment period, EPA officials are blatantly singing another tune.

Just one week prior to the oral arguments before the Court of Appeals, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told an energy symposium, “[The Clean Power Plan] is going to happen. We have the legal – not just right and authority but responsibility – to do it.”

In March, McCarthy said, “EPA is going to regulate… If folks are thinking any of these pieces aren’t going to happen – and (the Clean Power Plan) isn’t going to be implemented, I think they need to look at the history of the Clean Air Act more carefully.”

These are hardly the words of an agency that is still making up its mind.

Fortunately, Judge Thomas Griffith seemed to pick up on this during oral arguments, asking the EPA if McCarthy’s remarks suggest that the agency’s comment period is a “sham.” While the EPA argued it wasn’t, the evidence certainly suggests otherwise.

When the EPA held field hearings on the rule, they neglected to hold them in coal-rich areas that would be among those most hurt by its plan. EPA’s air quality chief Janet McCabe told Congress the agency held hearings in “locations where people were comfortable coming.”

A sincere comment period should not be about comfort. It should be about hearing the impacts – both good and bad – of a proposed rule. Unfortunately, the EPA seems uninterested in doing the right thing.

It is essential the courts act now to stop EPA’s Clean Power Plan because the impacts on states are already being felt. EPA’s proposal requires each state to submit a specific plan that will lead to a nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 30 percent by 2030. These plans are to be submitted to EPA by June 2016.

These plans represent an extraordinarily complex undertaking. States will need to study their electricity infrastructure, change their policies and laws, adjust their regulatory structures, all while ensuring electric reliability isn’t put at risk. Many states suggest the development of such a plan will require three years or more, yet EPA is giving them just one. Adding insult to injury, all of this work must be done irrespective of legal challenges that will likely overturn the rule.

To accommodate this accelerated schedule, states already are dedicating taxpayer dollars to prepare for the rule. Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and South Dakota are just some of the states that report using significant amounts of staff time studying the proposed rule and the substantial changes they would need to make to implement it.

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Newly Launched #ColdInTheDark Campaign Highlights Reliability Concerns with EPA Regulations

This week, America’s Power launched a new campaign—#ColdInTheDark—to highlight the high costs and significant electric reliability impacts that will result from the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations. The initiative offers a glimpse into the reality American consumers will face under the Clean Power Plan: less affordable and less reliable electricity, especially during times of critical demand.

EPA’s regulations are forcing coal-based power plants to shut down, threatening our supply of reliable electricity and elevating the risk of power outages for years to come. Last winter’s polar vortex revealed an already-strained electric grid, and major grid operators, regulators, elected officials, energy experts and other concerned Americans from coast to coast have sounded the alarm.

#ColdInTheDark is the inaugural installment of KeepAmericasPowerOn.org, a new initiative that will include several themed campaigns throughout 2015. The site will serve as an online hub that includes news articles, expert takes, infographics, social media share graphics, and resources related to electric grid reliability.

It’s time to expose EPA’s regulations for what they are, before Americans are left #ColdInTheDark – without the low-cost, dependable power we need, when we need it the most. Visit www.KeepAmericasPowerOn.org to learn more.  


Setting the Record Straight: EPA Misleads Americans on Clean Power Plan

Last week, acting EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe rattled off EPA’s same stale talking points about the Clean Power Plan in her blog post: “Time and Flexibility: Keys to Ensuring Reliable, Affordable Electricity.” In the post, McCabe touts the “time and flexibility” EPA has afforded states to comply with its proposed plan. This is really just laughable as an array of stakeholders—from grid operators to regulators to leading energy experts—have made it clear EPA’s timeline and flexibility is unworkable.

Don’t take my word for it, however, just look at the comments submitted on this topic. Here’s one of the most succinct by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality:

“EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan does not afford the flexibility for Nebraska to comply as advocated by EPA.”

McCabe’s post also highlights EPA’s commitment to solicit and engage stakeholders on its proposal. Time and time again, however, EPA failed to solicit and/or engage critical stakeholders. In 2014, the agency held only five public hearings on the proposed regulations and bypassed coal communities across the country despite pleas for EPA to come to their region and hear firsthand how communities and businesses would be destroyed. Additionally, the agency is turning a deaf ear to mounting concerns raised by states, who fear the CPP will throw their electricity generation into a tailspin—driving up costs and weakening grid reliability. As we outlined recently, with the CPP that are being all but ignored.

The agency argues that Clean Air Act regulations have yet to cause the lights to go out. However, this claim fails to take into account that the CPP proposal is wholly unprecedented in size and scope. Experts agree the reliability impacts of the proposal will be significant and potentially devastating, especially for the most vulnerable Americans. Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s comments read like many other state leaders, firmly opposing EPA’s proposal and underscoring serious reliability concerns:

“The proposed rules are ill-conceived and poorly constructed. They exceed the legal authority granted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act. They seek to fundamentally restructure how our electricity grid functions while making our electricity less reliable.”

Assistant Administrator McCabe’s post also maintains that CPP will protect Americans’ access to affordable energy. An analysis by NERA Economic Consulting, which uses the government’s own data, debunks this claim. The analysis found compliance costs of the proposed guidelines could total $366 billion, or more, in today’s dollars and result in double-digit electricity rate increases in 43 states. In their comments to EPA, Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox raises concerns regarding cost repercussions, a common message among the growing chorus of opposition:

“As you may know, coal is the dominant source of generating electricity in Utah… Any transition away from this historically low-cost electricity source will have economic repercussions not just for the communities of those employed in the industry but throughout the state in the form of higher electricity prices.”

Assistant Administrator McCabe’s post reaffirms what we already knew: EPA will continue misleading on its overreaching and impractical proposal, ignoring legitimate and widespread opposition and disregarding the deeply negative consequences that will result from the plan. With EPA showing no sign of coming clean about these impacts, it is up to American consumers to arm themselves with the facts and take action to stop EPA’s costly proposal from moving forward.

 


Looking Ahead: Coal Fuels 2015

Happy New Year from America’s Power! We’re gearing up for an exciting and important year as we continue our work to protect America’s access to affordable, reliable coal-based electricity.

Over the past year, we’ve seen just how critical this fight is for our energy and economic future. As part of President Obama’s climate change plan, the Environmental Protection Agency put forth unprecedented and costly regulations that will cause electricity prices to soar and threaten American’s people and economy.

As you know, coal is, and will continue to be, our most abundant, affordable and reliable source of fuel. To protect the bottom lines of our homes, businesses and economy, it is critical that coal continues to play a central role in our energy portfolio.

In 2015, each of you can take part in pushing back against the Administration by taking an active role in our advocacy efforts. So be on the lookout for more from us throughout the year on how you can engage with us and your lawmakers at the federal and state level who are key to stopping the Administration’s costly and illegal overreach.

Thank you for your continued support. Check back on Behind the Plug for frequent updates from America’s Power and, if you haven’t already, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

 


On the Trail: The State of Energy in North Carolina

America’s Power recently held our second state policy event in Charlotte, North Carolina, hosting local guests at the Mint Museum Uptown for a conversation on energy policy. Moderated by Tom Bevan from RealClearPolitics, the event featured keynote remarks by Governor Pat McCrory and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis, who both noted the impact the 2014 elections will have on America’s energy future. Tillis, who currently serves as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, also discussed the devastating impact the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon regulations would have on electricity prices and jobs in North Carolina.

Following their remarks, our panel of experts covered a range of issues critical to the current energy debate. One message that continued to resonate throughout the discussion was the need for a sensible and balanced energy strategy. Instead of picking winners and losers through unfair and costly regulations, the administration should work with energy producers and utilities to advance standards that are both feasible and environmentally beneficial. While renewable energy sources such as wind and solar play a role in America’s energy future, we will continue to need coal to provide the constant supply of baseload power necessary to meet our growing energy demands.

Through our state policy events, we’ve brought together lawmakers, thought leaders and industry experts to explore the critical issues facing the future of energy. For full coverage of our past events in North Carolina and Arkansas, click here.


EPA’s Rule 111(d) and the Future of American Innovation: Part 1

I recently spoke at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s (USHCC) annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. The event was an opportunity to connect with friends, both old and new, from throughout the country. As a native Midwesterner, the picturesque mountain views made for a spectacular setting. The meeting also offered a chance to have a productive dialogue about America’s energy future, since the decision our nation ultimately makes about how we will regulate carbon dioxide emissions will have far-reaching effects on businesses from coast to coast.

On an energy and sustainability panel at the convention, I discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon standards. The carbon standards are a series of proposed regulations designed to regulate America’s existing power plants and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. EPA’s framework to achieve its reduction goal sets strict emissions limits for states that must be met beginning in the year 2020 through 2030 and beyond.

My comments at the USHCC convention focused on how Hispanic business owners would be affected if EPA’s rules are finalized as proposed and some fuels are made “winners” while others are designated as “losers.”  As you may assume, coal-fired electricity would be singled out as a “loser,” especially since EPA predicts that at least 50,000 MW of power will retire as a direct result of its proposed regulations.

What many entrepreneurs at the USHCC convention astutely pointed out, however, is that current and future innovations in fossil fuel technologies could also be lost if, and when, a third of our nation’s coal fleet is shuttered due to the proposed regulations. These are the same innovations that allow small startups to gather capital and build reputations through electric-generating plant contracts vis-à-visactivities such as maintenance, construction, logistics, materials, skilled trade, environmental services and more. These opportunities could be lost within the next few years if the rules are implemented as proposed.

Part of what makes America special is our ability to solve really tough issues. To that end, we’ve made really great strides in developing clean coal technologies to reduce emissions, including carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, America is the leading innovator in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.  Sadly, however, EPA’s proposed regulations on our existing fleet of power plants could stop innovation in this critical area which means we won’t be the first nation to build carbon capture plants on a commercial scale.  And, because of that, entrepreneurs in other countries like India and China will reap the economic reward associated with advancing CCS technology. Moreover, the U.S. economy will not benefit from leading the next generation of carbon management technologies.

I had business owners ask my colleagues and I about this aspect of EPA’s proposed regulations numerous times during and after my remarks on the panel.  The truth is that carbon capture and storage, ultra-supercritical and integrated gasification combined cycle coal plants, among other technologies, are all providing significant reductions in the environmental impact of coal-fired electricity. Moreover, they are providing investment, jobs and business opportunities for entrepreneurs around the nation.

At the end of the day, we all want clean air and affordable, reliable electricity. The question is: “How do we maintain progress and continue down a path to near-zero emissions at coal-fired electric plants?” Many of the Hispanic business owners that were present at the USHCC convention believe that technology is the key to solving climate change issues, not LESS electricity. Technologies that are on display at the John W. Turk generating plant in Arkansas or the possibilities of carbon capture at the Kemper County facility in Mississippi are great examples of how these technologies can work if allowed time to grow and develop further. The jobs, investment, ingenuity and opportunities for growth at these facilities cannot be overlooked.  Plants like these are making our air cleaner and opening the door to America exporting its expertise to a world that is increasing its electric consumption, especially coal electricity consumption.

My next installment will examine the opportunities for minority firms to benefit from clean coal technologies. In the meantime, see how you can get involved and take action to protect the future of affordable, reliable, clean energy.


EPA Owes Georgia More Time, More Answers

Last week, I weighed in on the EPA’s recently proposed carbon regulations for existing power plants in The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Here are some excerpts:

EPA’s proposal represents one of the largest regulatory efforts in our nation’s history, fundamentally altering the way we power our homes and business. Georgia has traditionally relied on a diverse electricity portfolio drawing roughly one-third of its power each from coal, natural gas and nuclear. This diversity helps contribute to better reliability and more stable electricity prices. EPA’s proposal, however, would force Georgia to turn away from this sound approach.

Under EPA’s proposal, Georgia would be required to reduce the carbon emissions rates of its electric plants by 44 percent – the sixth-largest emissions reduction requirement of any state. EPA assumes Georgia can accomplish this by reducing its electricity from coal by 34 percent; increasing electricity from non-hydro renewable energy sources by more than 200 percent; and reducing consumers’ electricity use by more than 10 percent. These assumptions are unrealistic at best and unachievable at worst.

EPA acknowledges that its plan would increase electricity rates but the plan, released just last month, is more than 1,600 pages long so its impacts are still being studied. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), however, issued a model plan that EPA lifted heavily from to shape their own proposal.

What is already clear about EPA’s proposal is that it will hurt many states, businesses and workers. Unfortunately, there has been little time to fully analyze the proposal. As a first step, the EPA should extend their comment period, add more public hearings, and include opportunities for stakeholders to ask questions.


EPA’s Carbon Emissions Rule Missed the Mark for Americans

Yesterday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy personally announced the long-awaited proposed rule to reduce emissions from America’s existing power plants. This complex rule has a preamble alone of over 600 pages. We are working our way through the text of the regulation, but a few things became clear from the start.

If this rule is allowed to go into effect, the administration for all intents and purposes, is creating America’s next energy crisis. Coal is one of America’s most vital fuel sources, currently providing nearly 40 percent of our nation’s power. It is also far more stable in pricing and supply than other sources. If we turn away from this natural resource now, we will be ill-prepared for America’s energy needs in the coming years. This could lead to rolling brownouts and blackouts, not to mention volatile price spikes for ratepayers year-round.

The expansive, expensive regulatory agenda put forward by EPA has already become a burden for American consumers and our nation’s economy. Contrary to what EPA tells us, it will be costly to our big cities and our small towns, as all communities grapple with less base load power fueling our electricity grid. It will be costly to our low- and middle-income families for whom electricity bills make up a significant amount of their monthly budgets already. They will continue to see those rates rise. And it will be costly to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who will lose their jobs when these regulations go into effect.

Reliable, low-cost power drives America’s economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs both directly and indirectly tied to the power generation industry. The total cost of the cumulative lost jobs and unemployed American workers are a huge price to pay for negligible environmental improvements.  A recent paper released by ACCCE finds that the climate benefits of reducing carbon from America’s coal fleet are negligible. By 2050, eliminating our coal-based power plants would result in only 1% reduction in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

As I said yesterday, President Obama and EPA have chosen political expediency over practical reality as they unveiled energy standards devoid of commonsense. I look forward to weighing in on this proposed rule over the coming months and hope we can craft a final rule that makes far more sense for American than the one that has been proposed.