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Aug. 4 — The Environmental Protection Agency's final Clean Power Plan boosted the baseline carbon dioxide emissions from states that it used to determine emissions rate targets, potentially giving state regulators a larger pool of options to consider as they plot their compliance strategies.
Some states—particularly those heavily invested in coal-fired power generation—will face even more stringent emissions rates targets in 2030, but the EPA acquiesced to requests to reassess how it determined each state's baseline emissions, based on 2012 data.
As a result, state baseline emissions figures increased across the board. Revisions include determining states' targets based on uniform national emissions rates for coal- and natural gas-fired power plants and in some states removing planned new nuclear power generation from the states' emissions baseline.
How those revisions will affect state compliance strategies is still to be seen as regulators assess their revised targets.
“The bigger picture is now there is one basic rule to examine,” Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 4. “There is a limited number of scenarios. There is more certainty in what their targets are, though they have some options there. While states were dealing with speculation before, now they’re able to focus all of their resources on a final target and a final rule. When they sit down with stakeholders, they can really talk turkey.”
The EPA final Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33), issued Aug. 3, sets unique carbon dioxide emissions rates or alternatively mass-based targets for the power sector in each state. State regulators will be tasked with developing plans to meet the targets, which will be phased in through 2030.
The largest emissions reductions on a percentage basis will be required from South Dakota (47.6 percent), Montana (47.4 percent), North Dakota (44.9 percent), Wyoming (44.3 percent) and Kansas (44.2 percent).
Despite the large emissions reductions required, South Dakota, in particular, saw its 2030 emissions rate target eased from 741 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour under the EPA proposal to 1,167 pounds per megawatt hour in the final Clean Power Plan.
Several other rates saw significantly more stringent emissions targets from the EPA.
“It’s going to be different for everyone, but there are at least a dozen states that are substantially more stringent,” Clint Woods, executive director of the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 4.
Kentucky's 2030 emissions rate target went from 1,763 pounds per megawatt-hour from the proposal to 1,286 pounds per megawatt-hour, a 122 percent increase in stringency. The stringency of North Dakota's target increased more than 324 percent from a 1,783 pounds per megawatt-hour target for 2030 under the proposal to a rate of 1,305 pounds per megawatt-hour in the final Clean Power Plan.
The EPA's revised calculations for setting those state baselines and emissions rates will require additional analysis before regulators truly understand how the final rule compares to the proposal, Eric Massey, director of the Air Quality Division of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 4.
“What we know is the changes EPA has made to that program has made making that apples to apples comparison difficult,” he said.
Arizona had faced one of the most aggressive standards as part of the EPA's proposal, requiring the state to nearly halve its carbon dioxide emissions rate by 2030. The final rule would set a 35 percent less stringent target for the state.
The final rule met with mixed initial reviews from states, with those that already have taken steps to curb carbon dioxide emissions such as California and the nine Northeastern states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative praising the rule, while the attorneys general of 15 states more reliant on coal announcing plans to bring new legal challenges to the rule.
Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the revisions in the final rule show that the EPA took state concerns seriously.
“They made adjustments that will help the states come up with good solid plans,” she told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 4. “EPA did make adjustments to our final numbers that recognize much of what we have been able to accomplish in the past.”
Allowing states to develop their own glide path to compliance “is very helpful for us,” she said. “It's appreciably relaxed.”
The EPA slightly eased Colorado's emissions rates targets in the final rule, setting a 2030 target of 1,174 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour rather than the 1,108 pounds per megawatt-hour it had proposed.
Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the department, said in a statement the rule provides “important flexibility” to draft “specific strategies to reduce CO2 emissions and the time needed to accomplish the goals.”
Colorado was the first state to adopt a renewable energy standard by ballot initiative in 2004, requiring investor-owned utilities to achieve 30 percent renewable energy by 2020. Colorado gets about 2,500 megawatts from renewable sources, ranking tenth in the nation, the department said. Additionally, in 2010 the state General Assembly approved the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, retiring some coal-fired generating plants and converting others to natural gas. By 2018, the act will have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 3.6 million metric tons annually, according to the department.
States said they are still assessing the interaction between the revised baseline figures and the new emissions targets. Governors who have opposed the rule have stopped short of saying they will boycott compliance with the Clean Power Plan—something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has urged—as they grapple with the revisions to the rule.
“A lot of math is being done in environmental quality agencies across the country,” Woods said.
With assistance from Tripp Baltz in Denver
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
|EPA Clean Power Plan - State Emission Reduction Targets (by largest percent emissions reduction in final rule)|
|Proposed Rule||Final Rule||Percent Change (proposed to final rule)|
|Baseline||Target||Pct Decrease||Baseline||Target||Pct Decrease|
|*Baseline and target numbers are pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt hour of electricity produced, averaged across a state's entire electricity sector|
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