Comment Period Open for Proposed Carbon Rule

Cass County Electric Cooperative is asking its members to help join the fight against onerous proposed carbon regulations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a 60-day public comment period on its proposed emissions standards for carbon from new power plants. The proposal was placed in the Federal Register on Jan. 8.

The scoop: If finalized, the proposed rule would regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including carbon dioxide, from new power plants under the Clean Air Act’s provisions for new source performance standards (NSPS). Once the rule was published on Jan. 8, it began the official comment period (comments due March 10).

What you can do: Go to action.coop to sign up with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), make a comment and learn more about the new power plants proposal and other EPA proposals that would impact our rates. Though CCEC and our wholesale energy provider, Minnkota Power Cooperative, face a more significant battle when the proposed rule for existing power plants comes out later this year, NRECA wants members to sign up and comment at action.coop about the rule and also wants to prepare and get infrastructure in place for the proposed existing power plants rule.

What people are saying about the rule: Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), recently drew attention to the important role access to all fuels plays in the reliability and affordability of electricity in America. She believes coal plants should remain a vital part of the U.S. energy mix.

“We must be deliberate and purposeful with our energy policy to avoid depriving cost-conscious American families and businesses the affordable, reliable energy they count on as a basic component of everyday life,” she said in a NRECA release. “The competitiveness of the U.S. economy depends upon options when it comes to energy and the regional, economic and demographic differences demand flexibility and freedom when deciding which fuels will keep us moving forward.”

John Graves, environmental manager for Minnkota, has said “although the administration has said that coal is part of the energy future, this rule if finalized as proposed, will effectively stop coal from being used as a fuel for new power plants.”

How would it impact the coal-based Milton R. Young Station, Minnkota’s major source of energy?: This rule wouldn’t directly impact the Young Station. It’s only for new power plants. However, regulations for new power plants must be promulgated before proposed regulations for existing power plants can be published and eventually finalized. The proposed existing power plants rule could have a significant impact on electric rates.

Some believe that the purpose of the proposed rule for new power plants is only so EPA can set up for more expansive regulations that will cover the nation’s existing fleet of power plants. After all, EPA says very few new coal-based power plants will be built in the future.

Why the proposed new power plants rule isn’t feasible for coal-based plants: The rule relies on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. There is no commercially viable CCS technology. EPA is betting that the technology will be developed. However, the Clean Air Act requires that the technology be commercially viable at the time the regulations are put in place.

What’s next: Comments on the proposed rule for new power plants will be taken until March 10. EPA also is working on those proposed NSPS guidelines for GHG emissions for existing power plants, due by June. That is the proposed rule that could potentially have a significant impact on electric rates.

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More than 900 CCEC members have already contacted the EPA through action.coop to tell them to keep electricity affordable by reconsidering their “All-but-one” approach to energy.

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