By John Pippy
In November, Pennsylvania DEP closed out a round of statewide listening sessions and a comment period on how to comply with the EPA’s newest and most costly regulation; the Clean Power Plan.
Based on the complexity of the electric market and grid, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urged EPA to allow states more time to develop their State Implementation Plans in order to avoid potential blackouts and drastic price increases. As a result, EPA altered the final rule, allowing states to easily request a two-year extension and ultimately submit a final plan in 2018. Unfortunately, PA DEP still plans to draft a plan determining Pennsylvania’s energy future over the next few months and submit the final and federally enforceable plan by September 2016.
The EPA has recently been the recipient of a number of unfavorable legal decisions; including a June 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that remanded the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule back to the D.C. Courts citing EPA’s lack of consideration for the costs to utilities and consumers, and an October 2015 decision by the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals mandating a stay of the EPA’s Clean Water Rule (WOTUS) pending conclusive determination of the legality of the rule.
These rulings show how EPA continues to misinterpret its authority under Federal environmental laws, overreaching into matters that historically have fallen under the management of states.
Unfortunately, the MATS ruling came too late and nationally 400 power plants in 36 states were closed, shuttering several hundred jobs in Pennsylvania alone.
The EPA’s recent track record of circumventing Congress and sidestepping the democratic process has forced our elected representatives to spend time and resources reigning in this increasingly rogue agency.
While President Obama met with international leaders in Paris to push his climate agenda message, the U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Clean Power Plan and curb the EPA’s power in further rulemakings.
According to the Energy Information Administration, global coal consumption grew 14 percent from 2008 to 2012, faster than any other fossil fuel. During that same time, the U.S. reduced carbon emissions from coal consumption by 23 percent, while China simultaneously increased emissions by 30 percent and India by 29 percent.
These countries are not transitioning away from coal, they are building their economies and manufacturing bases on it. The U.S. is home to 28 percent of the world’s recoverable coal reserves and boasts the cleanest and most regulated process of electric generation.
The EPA has run a shrewd public relations campaign attempting to link carbon emissions to natural disasters and health impacts. However, climate modeling is widely variable and the EPA’s health claims are based on co-benefits; double counting previously realized benefits under other regulations and misleading reports.
While DEP points to its most recent commissioned climate impacts analysis as reasoning for early compliance, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association found that the report’s projections were based primarily on the RCP8.5 scenario, one of the most aggressive scenario models in use today to demonstrate worst-case scenarios.
Pennsylvania is blindly pushing ahead on compliance with a rule that has yet to be fully published. The Federal Implementation Plan and Clean Energy Incentive Program will not be published by the EPA until summer 2016; how can Pennsylvania craft a rule without knowing all the implications and tools available?
Gov. Wolf should direct DEP to take advantage of the available two-year extension. Pennsylvania’s energy future is too important an issue to rush into and get wrong.
John Pippy is CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance.