Legal & Regulatory

EPA Releases Additional Information on Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a notice of data availability (NODA)—making additional information and ideas available for public comment—and it has also proposed carbon goals for areas in Indian Country and U.S. territories.

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, explained the two actions related to the Clean Power Plan to media members during a conference call on Oct. 28. She noted that both of the actions are routine steps in the course of federal rulemaking.

McCabe said the NODA “discusses a few issues and ideas that stakeholders have raised about the Clean Power Plan, so that all stakeholders and the public can consider these ideas when commenting on the proposal.”

Specifically, the NODA includes additional information on three topic areas: the emission reduction compliance trajectories created by the interim goal for 2020 to 2029, certain aspects of the building block methodology, and the way state-specific carbon dioxide goals are calculated.

“I want to emphasize that the NODA does not change the proposal that was put out in June. It simply discusses some key ideas that we’ve been hearing consistently from a diverse set of stakeholders,” McCabe said. “It is not about making the proposal more or less stringent.”

The following ideas are offered in the NODA:

  • Regarding the trajectory—or glide path—of emissions reductions from 2020 to 2029, stakeholders have suggested two potential approaches: allowing credit for early reduction, and phasing in the use of natural gas generation over time.
  • Regarding the building blocks, stakeholders have suggested that there may be additional opportunities to look at natural gas that were not discussed—or were addressed differently—in the June proposal, and that a regional approach for renewable energy targets could be more appropriate.
  • Regarding the state-specific carbon goals, stakeholders have suggested alternative approaches for calculating goals for each state.

The EPA also made additional emissions data available for the years 2010 and 2011 because feedback has suggested that more than one single year—2012—should be used when considering targets.

When the EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan in June, it noted that a supplemental proposal to address carbon pollution from affected power plants in Indian Country and U.S. territories would be released in the future. McCabe said that like the proposal for states, the Indian Country and U.S. territories proposal “sets area specific goals” and “provides options for meeting those goals in a flexible manner that accommodates a diverse range of approaches.” She indicated that the same basic approach was used with some adjustments because the plants are located in more isolated areas.

There are three tribes that have affected power plants on their lands: the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, the Navajo Nation, and the Ute Indian Tribe. The four plants are the South Point Energy Center and the Navajo Generating Station, which are both in Arizona, the Four Corners Generating Station in New Mexico, and the Bonanza Power Plant in Utah. Six sources in Puerto Rico and two sources in Guam are also affected. The EPA will hold a public hearing on the proposal Nov. 19 in Phoenix, Ariz., and will accept comments through Dec. 19.

Recently, a group of Republican senators—led by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter—alleged collusion between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council during the development of the proposed carbon rule. During her statement, McCabe made it clear that the EPA values the participation of all stakeholders. She noted that the EPA has “prioritized outreach to the public, states, tribes, industry, non-governmental organizations, labor, and communities, and many, many others.”

“We believe that public input is one of the most important parts of the rulemaking process, and the more we listen and engage—the more perspectives we hear, the more ideas we hear—the better the Clean Power Plan and all of our work will be,” McCabe said.

During a short question and answer period, McCabe suggested that the Dec. 1 deadline for comments on the proposed rule would remain firm, but that people can expect to see additional information coming out in the near future giving states more guidance on how to convert rate-based targets into mass-based targets.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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