EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan wrong for South Dakota, PUC says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants will have harmful results on the reliability and affordability of electricity in South Dakota if implemented as it is currently written, warned the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. The PUC responded to the EPA’s call for comments to its Clean Power Plan by thoroughly analyzing the proposal, discussing effects with South Dakota stakeholders and submitting extensive written comments to the federal agency this month. Those comments can be read on the PUC’s website at www.PUC.SD.gov/energy/111dcomments.aspx

In mid-June of this year the EPA rolled out its proposed rule to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act §111(d). The agency initially opened a comment period until mid-October for the myriad parties that would be affected by the complex rule to share their concerns. The EPA extended the comment period to Dec. 1, after receiving feedback from numerous parties about the compressed timeline. The EPA expects to finalize the rule by June 1, 2015. States will be required to submit their plans on how to comply with the rule by June 30, 2016. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources will be responsible for compiling and filing the state plan with the EPA.

In its proposed rule, the EPA specifies carbon reduction goals for the state that are based on national or regional averages with no consideration for the production and dispatch of energy in South Dakota that crosses state boundaries. The existing power plants in South Dakota targeted by the EPA’s proposal are the Big Stone Plant, a coal-fired plant near Milbank jointly operated by Otter Tail Power Co., NorthWestern Energy and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.; and Deer Creek Station, a natural gas combined cycle plant near Elkton owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative. The EPA’s proposal does not give credit for carbon-free electricity generated by hydropower plants located along the Missouri River in South Dakota.

PUC Commissioners Gary Hanson, Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen are unified in their opposition to the EPA’s proposed plan and in supporting the comments the PUC has filed. Paramount among their concerns are the proposal’s use of flawed assumptions and suggestions of carbon emission reductions that are not technically feasible, resulting in dramatic increases in the cost of electricity to consumers and a reckless disregard for electric reliability.

The PUC’s written comments focus on four primary elements: educating the EPA about South Dakota’s electric industry; identifying concerns with EPA’s short compliance timeline; identifying technical issues with the building blocks EPA has specified for states to use to comply with the Clean Power Plan; and providing economic impacts forecasted for South Dakota.

“The EPA’s proposal will be destructive to our economy,” said PUC Chairman Hanson. “I agree that environmental prudence should be part of national energy policy. I also firmly believe that energy must be affordable and reliable. I am frustrated that the EPA’s plan obviously bypasses essential facts about South Dakota’s reality. If the plan is unchanged, our state’s consumers will pay dearly,” he concluded.

“I believe the comments the PUC submitted to the EPA do a great job of stating why the EPA’s proposal is unrealistic and unattainable for South Dakota without significant cost,” stated PUC Vice Chairman Nelson. “This plan concerns me to the core and the PUC will continue to do all that we can to moderate its impact to South Dakota consumers, farmers and business people,” Nelson said.

“South Dakota is known for its common sense approach to challenges and changes,” commented Commissioner Fiegen. “Unfortunately, the EPA doesn’t place common sense very high on its priority scale, as reflected in this proposed plan. It is important that South Dakota energy consumers know that the PUC will continue to dig our heels in and advocate for rational and reasonable solutions on their behalf,” she said.

The PUC hosted a forum in July 2014 to discuss the proposed Clean Power Plan with representatives of South Dakota’s electric industry, the EPA and the state’s congressional delegation. Access presentations and recordings of the forum at www.PUC.SD.gov/energy/111dcomments.aspx

Heartland faces challenges from EPA

By Chuck Clement, Staff Reporter, Madison Daily Leader
The following article appeared on the front page of the August 29, 2014 issue of the Madison Daily Leader:

Heartland faces challenges from EPA

Emissions goals pose challenges; electric rate increases likely

The provider of about half of the electricity used by Madison’s electric utility customers has concerns about reaching the carbon-dioxide emissions reductions proposed by the EPA earlier this summer.

John Knofczynski, engineering manager at Heartland Consumers Power District, offered a presentation on Thursday to fellow members of the municipal Electric Advisory Committee that outlined the challenges one of Madison’s electricity suppliers faces if the current federal proposals remain the same.

Knofczynski warned that the current options for meeting a 35-percent reduction of South Dakota’s carbon dioxide emissions would mean a major restructuring of HCPD’s electricity supply and most likely higher costs to consumers.

Knofczynski said the EPA had an overall goal to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions across the nation by 30 percent less than 2012 levels. The EPA wants to reach that goal by 2030, but federal officials also have interim target levels that they want the states to reach by 2020.

The EPA has proposed that the states use four building blocks in the reduction plans: heat-rate improvements at existing power plants; substituting coal-based electricity with natural gas combined-cycle electricity generation; substituting renewable electricity generation; and demand-side (consumer) energy efficiency measures.

Knofczynski said that South Dakota only has one natural gas generation plant currently available, the Deer Creek Station owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative. He said the Deer Creek Station would need to operate at more than a 70-percent capacity factor to offset generation losses from the coal-fired Big Stone Power Plant.

He also said under current EPA policies, electricity providers will not receive any credit for supporting renewable energy production that was active before the carbon-dioxide reduction policies go into effect.

Knofczynski told the advisory committee members that the EPA’s building blocks offered little in practical solutions to South Dakota consumers.

In his presentation, Knofczynski listed Heartland’s three primary electric power resources:

  • Whelan Energy Center Unit 2 near Hastings, Neb., which has a 225-megawatt (MW) output from its coal-fired generation plant. HCPD has 35-percent ownership equaling 82 MW; however EPA officials gave Nebraska a 26-percent reduction target.
  • Laramie River Station near Wheatland, Wyo., a three-unit, 1,710-MW coal-fired plant in which HCPD has a 3-percent share equaling 51 MW. Wyoming has a 19-percent reduction target, but Laramie Station is also currently managing a regional haze mandate made by federal officials.
  • Wessington Springs Wind Energy Center in South Dakota, consisting of 34 wind turbines providing 51 MW in total capacity. Heartland has purchased the full output from the wind farm since it went into service in February 2009.

Persons can send public comments by mail, e-mail or fax with the deadline on Oct. 16. All comments need to include the federal government’s docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 in the message’s subject line.

The comments are mailed to Environmental Protection Agency; EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC), Mailcode 28221T, Attn. Docket ID OAR-2013-0602; 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460.

Persons can e-mail comments to A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov or fax them to 202-566-9744.

Senator Thune among group urging President to withdraw EPA rule on greenhouse gases

U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the U.S. Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), led 41 Senators in a letter to President Obama, asking him to withdraw the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed greenhouse gas emissions guidelines for existing power plants. Senator John Thune (R-SD) was among those who signed, and expressed concern for the rule’s financial repercussions.

Thune tweet 6-4-14Vitter said, “Mostly, I’m concerned about the American families and businesses who are going to have to deal with the severe financial effects of the President’s rule. It’s all pain, no gain.” Vitter likened the rule to a return to cap-and-trade, with the president pushing a far-left environmental agenda over providing reliable, affordable electricity across the country.

The group said their “primary concern is that the rule as proposed will result in significant electricity rate increases and additional energy costs for consumers.” The group called out the Administration on the rule’s intention to remove coal as a power source from the generation portfolio, saying it “unnecessarily reduces reliability and market flexibility while increasing costs.”

In the letter, the Senators urge the President to withdraw the rule in its entirety.

Signing the letter include Sens. Vitter, McConnell, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), James Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Read the full letter to President Obama here.

 

 

EPA releases Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from power plants

WASHINGTON – At the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is today releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source–power plants,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs.”

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

With the Clean Power Plan, EPA is proposing guidelines that build on trends already underway in states and the power sector to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting. This proposal follows through on the common-sense steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:

  • Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
  • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

The Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. The proposal provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution and gives them the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their unique situation. States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs. It allows them to work alone to develop individual plans or to work together with other states to develop multi-state plans.

Also included in today’s proposal is a flexible timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency—with plans due in June 2016, with the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. States that have already invested in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs during the compliance period to help make progress toward meeting their goal.

Since last summer, EPA has directly engaged with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others. The data, information and feedback provided during this effort helped guide the development of the proposal and further confirmed that states have been leading the way for years in saving families and businesses money through improving efficiency, while cleaning up pollution from power plants. To date, 47 states have utilities that run demand-side energy efficiency programs, 38 have renewable portfolio standards or goals, and 10 have market-based greenhouse gas emissions programs. Together, the agency believes that these programs represent a proven, common-sense approach to cutting carbon pollution—one in which electricity is generated and used as efficiently as possible and which promotes a greater reliance on lower-carbon power sources.

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of the second phase of the agency’s outreach efforts. EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings on the proposed Clean Power Plan during the week of July 28 in the following cities: Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh. Based on this input, EPA will finalize standards next June following the schedule laid out in the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

In 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. Taking steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants will protect children’s health and will move our nation toward a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations, while supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth.

Fact sheets and details about the proposed rule available at:
http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

More information on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change

Video on today’s announcement from Administrator Gina McCarthy: http://www.epa.gov/

WAPA seeking transmission project proposals

Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) is seeking new applications from project developers interested in obtaining a loan to construct new or upgrade transmission lines and related facilities that promote the delivery of clean, renewable power. WAPA has $3.25 billion borrowing authority under the Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP). The TIP was recently revised and details were outlined in an April 7 Federal Register notice.

TIP leverages WAPA’s depth of transmission project development experience and expertise, along with its statutory borrowing authority, to advance projects aimed at expanding and modernizing the electric grid to facilitate the delivery of reliable, affordable power from renewable energy sources. The TIP “is separate and distinct from Western’s power marketing functions, and each eligible project must stand on its own for repayment purposes,” WAPA said in the notice.

To be eligible, prospective projects must meet, at minimum, the following criteria:

  • Deliver or facilitate the delivery of renewable energy resources
  • Have at least one terminus (geographical point) in Western’s service territory
  • Demonstrate a reasonable expectation of repayment
  • Not adversely impact system reliability or operations
  • Serve the public interest
WAPA Administrator Mark Gabriel

WAPA Administrator Mark Gabriel

“The doors are wide open. It’s time to solve the energy infrastructure needs for our nation’s future,” said WAPA Administrator Mark Gabriel. “Industry investments made today, like those offered through TIP, will ensure stability and reliability in the future.”

Applicants can either submit a project proposal and initial payment for the application review process, or submit a project proposal and business plan with full payment. WAPA’s staff will review the proposals quarterly and respond to applicants within 30 days of reviewing submissions.

For more information or how to apply, click here.