EPA Seeks Input on Power Plant Rule, Proposes Carbon Rule for Tribal Lands

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By Andrew Childers

Oct. 28 — The Environmental Protection Agency highlighted additional issues for comment in its proposed carbon dioxide standards for existing power plants Oct. 28 while also proposing similar emissions targets for four utilities on tribal lands.

The EPA announced a notice of data availability that seeks additional comments on issues raised by states and industry groups with its proposed carbon dioxide standards for existing power plants. The notice responds to issues the EPA has already received in comments on the proposed rule.

Issues include allowing states to take credit for early actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, expanded use of natural gas-fired power plants and the possibility of setting a multiyear baseline for state emissions rates.

“The [notice] gives us a chance to ensure all stakeholders are aware of these issues and can address them in their comments,” Janet McCabe, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, told reporters Oct. 28.

McCabe said the notice isn't intended to revise the carbon dioxide emissions standards for existing power plants the EPA proposed under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (RIN 2060-AR33) in June (79 Fed. Reg. 34,830).

Instead, it highlights issues for commenters to address. The comment period closes Dec. 1.

Glide Path Addressed 

The EPA's proposal would set interim emissions targets for states between 2020 and 2029 with a final emissions rate target to be achieved in 2030, which the agency refers to as the glide path.

Some states have expressed concern with that approach because it requires them to achieve the bulk of their emissions reductions early, leaving little flexibility for later emissions reductions.

“This is an issue we've heard expressed to us by many states and stakeholders,” McCabe said.

The agency is seeking comment on an approach that would give states credit for early carbon dioxide emissions reductions achieved prior to when the 2020 interim targets take effect.

“The EPA recognizes that some measures may take longer than 2020 to implement, while others can be, and are being, implemented more quickly,” the EPA said. “Implementation of any of these ideas would allow states or sources to include such reductions in their compliance strategies in lieu of achieving the full measure of reductions otherwise required in 2020 to meet the interim goal, and would thereby result in states and/or sources being able to phase in these reductions.”

Phased Natural Gas Transition

The EPA is also asking whether state targets for transitioning electricity generation from coal-fired power plants to natural gas should be phased in.

While the EPA isn't requiring states to specifically shift generation from coal to natural gas, states have said they would be required to significantly increase generation from natural gas to meet the agency's interim targets. Facilitating that transition could require installing new pipelines or other infrastructure.

The EPA is also exploring the possibility of setting renewable energy targets on a regional basis. That would reflect how the industry actually operates, McCabe said.

States have questioned how renewable energy investments would be credited—either to the state where the electricity is generated or to the state where that electricity is consumed.

“The markets for renewable energy are not located within single states,” she said. “There's interaction between states and companies that operate in multiple states. We're just trying to be as open as we can.”

Multiyear Baseline Considered

The EPA in its notice also said it would consider state requests for a multiyear baseline for the proposed emissions rates for states. The proposed rule requires states to achieve the emission reductions from a 2012 baseline, but the EPA released emissions data from 2010 and 2011 as well after some states suggested using a multiyear baseline would provide a more accurate picture of power plant emissions.

States have said that a single year baseline may not reflect variations in power plant emissions that occur over time.

The EPA said it had considered a multiyear baseline when it wrote the proposed rule but found that averaging out over multiple years would only produce minimal changes to the state emissions rate targets.

In addition to the notice of data availability, the EPA plans to issue additional guidance to states for converting their carbon dioxide targets from rate-based standard to a mass-based standard in order to facilitate emissions trading.

Tribal Targets Proposed 

The EPA is proposing carbon dioxide emissions rates for power plants on tribal lands as well as in Puerto Rico and Guam. The agency developed the emissions rates using the same factors it used to determine emissions rate targets for states.

The proposal would require the South Point Energy Center on Fort Mojave lands in Arizona to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions rate from 858 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour in 2012 to 855 pounds per megawatt-hour in 2030.

For the Bonanza Generating Station on Ute lands in Utah, the EPA's proposal would require it to reduce its emissions from 2,145 pounds per megawatt-hour in 2012 to 1,988 pounds per megawatt-hour in 2030. The proposal would set a carbon dioxide emissions rate of 1,989 pounds per megawatt-hour in 2030 for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona and the Four Corners Generating Station in New Mexico on Navajo lands, down from 2,121 pounds in 2012.

The proposed rule would set a carbon dioxide emissions rate of 1,586 per megawatt-hour in 2030 for Guam and 1,413 pounds per megawatt-hour for Puerto Rico. Guam's power plants emitted 1,948 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour in 2012, while Puerto Rico power plants emitted 1,701 pounds per megawatt-hour.

The EPA sent the proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review Sept. 30.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at achilders@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

The EPA's notice of data availability is available at http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-10/documents/20141028noda-clean-power-plan.pdf.

The EPA's proposed carbon dioxide emissions rates for power plants on tribal lands and in Guam and Puerto Rico are available at http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-10/documents/20141028-tribal-territory-goals.pdf.