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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy went to lengths to emphasize the fact that states will have flexibility when deciding on how to implement new greenhouse gas regulations on existing power plants. The much anticipated rules are currently being considered by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and are expected to be unveiled in June.
The EPA is trying to walk a fine line – it wants to make real cuts to carbon pollution while not forcing so many power plants to shut down that the grid’s reliability becomes a problem. “Nothing we do can threaten reliability,” McCarthy said on April 6 at a conference in Washington hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center. She added, “in a changing climate, it will be increasingly challenging to maintain a reliable energy supply.” At the same time, she emphasized that the regulations will be “federally enforceable, that will be a requirement. They are not aspirational standards.” The rules “won’t be so flexible that I can’t rely on them as a federal standard that reduces carbon,” she said.
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The EPA wants states to have the ability to use a variety of tools to meet the standards for existing power plants. That could mean a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon capture and storage. McCarthy also added that states who have already made an effort to reduce greenhouse gases will be recognized, “States that are out in front can continue to be there and get rewarded for that and recognized for it, while states that haven’t yet gone down this road can craft a way to do that in a time frame that will be meaningful for them,” she said.
Still, the rules are highly controversial in the electric power industry. But, while utilities often speak with one voice, the forthcoming EPA regulations are dividing them. Owners of coal-fired power plants vociferously oppose the regulations, while utilities with a cleaner portfolio do not appear to be too concerned.
By Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com