EPA Schedules One Hearing on Proposed ACE Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on September 10 announced it will hold one hearing to get input from the public and stakeholders on its Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the Trump administration’s replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The EPA said it has scheduled an all-day hearing October 1 at the Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago, which is home to EPA’s Region 5 headquarters. The agency did not rule out the possibility of more hearings. The Clean Air Act requires the agency to hold at least one hearing on proposed regulations, if requested, and comments received during any formal hearing are noted as part of the official regulatory record.

The Trump administration held one public hearing and three listening sessions after it said it would repeal the CPP, which was never implemented and remains in legal limbo. The Obama administration held four hearings after it proposed the CPP.

The Sierra Club, which along with other environmental groups has been critical of the ACE rule, in a statement charged the EPA—specifically agency head Andrew Wheeler—is fearful of how the proposed regulation is being viewed by the public.

“Given that Trump and Wheeler’s proposal will result in upwards of 1,400 more premature deaths every year, it is quite clear that Trump and Wheeler are scared of the feedback they will get on their unpopular and illegal proposal from the American public,” Liz Perera, the group’s director of climate policy, said in a statement. The 1,400 figure comes from the EPA’s own analysis, as part of the agency’s comparison to the CPP.

“The public deserves more than one chance to speak out about this deadly policy and we will make sure their voices are heard regardless of Andrew Wheeler’s plans,” Perera said.

Wheeler in recent weeks has discussed the ACE rule with government and business leaders in states where coal is the dominant fuel for power generation, including Kentucky and Ohio. In Kentucky, Wheeler said, “Many of Kentucky’s citizens and elected officials helped lead the opposition to the Clean Power Plan, which could have hurt the state’s energy production and raised electricity prices for consumers and businesses alike. Today, EPA brought the good news to the Bluegrass State that the Affordable Clean Energy rule would restore the rule of law and empower the states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide reliable and affordable energy for all Americans.”

The proposed ACE rule, which the EPA unveiled on August 21, was published in the Federal Register on August 31, which officially opened a 60-day public comment period on the proposal. The proposed rule would give individual states more leeway to establish their own rules for power plant emissions, as opposed to regulations being established by the federal government. It is mainly aimed at coal-fired power plants.

The EPA said the ACE rule defines the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for existing power plants as on-site, heat-rate efficiency improvements. The rule also provides states with a list of technologies that can be used by power plants to establish state performance standards. The ACE rule also updates the New Source Review program to encourage efficiency improvements at existing power plants.

The rule also says the use of biomass is a possible compliance option, though not as BSER. In April, the EPA said biomass from managed forests will be treated as carbon neutral when used for energy production at stationary sources.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).