States Say Clean Power Plan Targets Achievable Despite Critiques of Proposal

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By Andrew Childers

March 10 — States said they have the tools to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan targets even as they quibble over how the final rule should be structured.

Representatives from Colorado, Minnesota, New York and Washington said the EPA’s proposed rule, which would set unique carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets for the power sector in each state, is sufficiently flexible and achievable during a March 10 Senate briefing organized by the Georgetown Climate Center.

“We don’t want EPA to weaken it overall as they consider changes to it because we want it to be as aggressive as possible, and we think we can achieve it with some of the improvements EPA can make,” David Thornton, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said.

The briefing comes in advance of a March 11 Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on state perspectives on the Clean Power Plan (RIN 2060-AR33) featuring representatives from California, Indiana, New York, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Under the proposed rule, states would develop their own plans to comply with the required emissions rate reductions.

“States are already achieving significant reductions in carbon pollution,” Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, said. “They’re achieving these reductions cost effectively with benefits to their economies while reducing energy costs, driving clean energy innovation and improving public health.”

Targets Feasible Despite Critiques 

Though many states, including supporters of the proposal, have raised concerns with how the EPA determined their emissions reductions targets and the stringency of the proposed interim deadlines, Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the agency has been very responsive to state concerns.

“This is a very complicated rule and with its outreach, we’re convinced the EPA is taking all of the comments seriously,” she said.

Sam Rickets, director of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s Washington, D.C., office, called the EPA's Clean Power Plan “essential” to addressing climate change. Rickets said the state of Washington is already seeing the effects of climate change on wildfires and shellfish.

One concern states have raised is with the 2012 baseline the EPA used in its rule. That means states such as Minnesota and Washington, which have already taken steps to reduce their emissions, may not get credit for those early efforts, representatives said.

Rule Doesn't Account for Hydro 

While Washington supports the Clean Power Plan, Rickets said the rule doesn't account for hydroelectric generation, which provides 75 percent of the state's electricity. That means Washington needs to achieve even greater reductions from a handful of fossil fuel-fired units.

Thornton said the EPA could address those emissions rate targets in its final rule to provide more equity between states.

“Some states that haven’t done so much aren’t being asked to do so much,” he said.

The proposal includes interim emissions rate targets to be met between 2020 and 2029 and a final goal for each state that applies beginning in 2030. The EPA as part of the proposal identified “building blocks” that states can use to meet the required emissions reductions, including heat rate improvements at coal-fired power plants, expanding use of natural gas-fired generating capacity, and investing in new renewable energy generation or through energy efficiency programs.

RGGI Has Demonstrated Possibilities 

Jared Snyder, assistant commissioner for air resources, climate change and energy at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have already shown that using a broad array of programs can produce cost-effective emissions reductions.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a collection of nine Northeast and mid-Atlantic states that have pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 as part of a regional emissions trading program.

The New York economy has continued to grow despite the state's pledge to curb its carbon dioxide emissions, Snyder said. In fact, he said the EPA could pursue even greater emissions reductions as part of its Clean Power Plan.

“Our experience shows the building block approach of the best system of emission reductions makes a lot of sense,” Snyder said.

Minnesota ‘Excited' About Compliance Options 

Thornton said Minnesota is “very excited” about the opportunities to pursue renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to comply with the Clean Power Plan.

“We do well in those two areas,” he said.

Minnesota requires that 25 percent of its electricity must come from renewable sources by 2025, but the state is already on track to exceed that target, and the Legislature is considering boosting the goal to 40 percent, Thornton said.

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