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Greenhouse Gas Rule Open for Comment thru Dec. 1

By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer

NRECA, electric cooperatives and their members have an extra 45 days to get their messages to the Environmental Protection Agency about its proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

Public comments are now due to the agency Dec. 1 on its proposed carbon dioxide standard for fossil generation. NRECA, along with multiple parties concerned about the rule’s cost and reliability implications, had asked EPA to allow more time for feedback from those impacted by the rule.

NRECA and electric cooperatives across the country raised their concerns at public hearings, in TV ads and through a grassroots effort that has helped flood EPA with public comments from co-op members worried about the consequences of the rule that was proposed June 2.

“These proposed regulations are some of the most complex and far-reaching ever written. Electric cooperatives welcome the extension of the comment period to allow for more analysis of their impact on affordability and reliability,” NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson said. “This extension provides electric co-ops the opportunity to offer more informed and specific feedback to the agency before announcement of the final rule.”

On the same day of the existing plant proposal, EPA also issued a draft standard for carbon dioxide emitted from reconstructed or modified power plants. The public comment deadline for that part of the rule remains Oct. 16.

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, attributed the extension to an outpouring of public comment on the proposal, noting that public input plays an “important part” of the rulemaking process. The rule was originally open for 120 days of comment.

“We hope that additional time will give those entities wishing to submit comments the time they need to engage with us…and provide input that will help ensure this plan in the end is practical, flexible and achievable,” McCabe said in a media call Sept. 16, one month before comments were originally due.

The rule is still on target to go final in June 2015, despite the extension on the comment period, she said.

Under the proposed rule, EPA set carbon dioxide limits for each state, which then must develop its own implementation plan using a variety of means. These plans can include energy efficiency, switching from coal-based generation to natural gas, and increasing power supply from emission-free energy resources.

States have one to three years to submit their final plans to EPA. Compliance begins in 2020 with an interim goal based on an average of emissions during the years 2020-2029. A final emissions goal will be for the year 2030 and beyond.