An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule proposed June 2 seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. This aggressive agenda could considerably alter the face of the power industry, adding more renewable options and theoretically dialing down the United States’ dependence on higher-carbon fuel sources. However, according to Bicky Corman, partner at Venable LLP and former EPA deputy general counsel and senior sustainability advisor to the administrator, the rules are far from final.
“In order for this country to be able to achieve the ambitious and aggressive target of 30 percent GHG reduction set forth in the proposed rule, EPA and the states will have to broadly interpret statutory and regulatory language prescribing the components of a performance standard,” Corman says. “EPA’s proposed rule language makes clear that EPA is striving to allow the utmost flexibility, in which the states, the power plants, and all the other entities involved in generating, distributing and using electricity, are integral to determining greenhouse gas emissions limits, and to formulating the strategies to achieve those limits.”
In addition to receiving written comments, the EPA will also hold public hearings at the end of July in Atlanta, Ga., Denver, Co., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Washington, DC to further discuss the implications of the proposed rules. Once the rule is final, states will have one year to submit their own individual plans for reducing the amount of GHGs prescribed by the final rule or use a two-step process to extend the deadline if they need more time to enact state laws or rules or coordinate with other entities.
“One of the novel aspects of the proposed rule is that instead of establishing a greenhouse gas limit that is specific to a particular power plant, the proposal sets forth state-wide, and state-specific, greenhouse gas reduction targets. Those proposed targets are set based upon the state’s particular energy mix, meaning how much of its electricity comes from coal, from natural gas, or from nuclear. The proposed targets also build on the steps many states have already taken to lower their carbon emissions, including their existing renewable portfolio goals, their efforts to reduce consumer demand for electricity, and their participation in multi-state, market-based, GHG reduction programs,” Corman says.