Commissioner Bay named to FERC chair

Commissioner Bay, on being named Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by President Barack Obama

“I thank President Obama for this opportunity to be the Chairman of FERC,” Chairman Bay said. “I am honored and humbled to work with my extraordinary colleagues on the Commission, as well as the many dedicated and talented staff at the Commission. This is a time of great change in the energy space, and it is more important than ever that the Commission use its authority with respect to infrastructure, markets, and reliability to further the public interest. I thank former Chairman Cheryl LaFleur for her leadership at FERC and look forward to working with my colleagues on the Commission and staff, as we build on the progress of the past to address the challenges of the future.”

Chairman Bay has served as a Commissioner since August 2014, and his term expires June 30, 2018. For his full biography, please go here.

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.



APPA responds to Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled its much-awaited proposed rule to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by existing fossil-fueled power plants.

The American Public Power Association (Public Power) continues to be committed to reducing CO2 emissions. We appreciate that 120 days have been allowed for comments on the rule and will constructively engage with the EPA, in a fact-based manner, to ensure that regulations do not place undue burden on consumers.

Public Power believes climate change should be addressed but Congress, not EPA, should determine the best framework outside of the Clean Air Act to do so while ensuring affordable, reliable electricity from all fuel sources, including coal and natural gas. The Clean Air Act is ill-suited to regulate CO2 emissions. If the EPA moves forward with regulations that call for too much change too fast, we will likely see unnecessary coal-plant retirements without long-term plans for viable, cost-effective alternatives; higher electricity prices; and potential shortage of electricity supply.

“Public power utilities are good environmental stewards. But we need a middle path, one that respects the needs of energy producers and the pocketbooks of energy customers,” said Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association. Kelly cited the example of Germany’s “all-in” approach to renewables, which has doubled the average residential electric bill since 2000, with a further 40 percent increase projected by 2020.

The electric utility industry in the U.S. has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 12 percent between 2007 and 2012, without federal rules and regulations. Over the last decade, public power utilities have added new generation resources with lower or no emissions — wind, solar, hydro, biomass, nuclear, and natural gas. These utilities also have been aggressive in supporting efficiency in energy use by customers and encouraging demand response and load management. As utilities continue down this path, CO2 emissions are expected to further decline over time.

However, public power utilities using coal-fired generation — especially units that are now being upgraded and retrofitted to deal with current EPA regulations — need to be able to continue to use those facilities for their remaining useful life. “Regulations have to be considered comprehensively. Otherwise we run the risk of high electricity rates for customers, undue revenue losses for utilities that must be paid for by local communities and other adverse economic impacts, causing an unintended backlash that would help no one,” said Kelly.

EPA’s proposal to allow states to regulate carbon dioxide emissions will face barriers in those regions with restructured electricity markets. According to Joe Nipper, the American Public Power Association’s senior vice president, regulatory affairs and communications, “There are a host of different market and regulatory regimes throughout the country. At the wholesale level, many states are located within the boundaries of regional transmission organizations (RTOs). And many of these states regulate utilities that no longer own generation. States have little regulatory authority over either the rules of these electricity markets or the actions of the for-profit companies that own generating units.”

Nipper noted that the greatest barriers to development of new and lower CO2 resources will be for states located within those RTOs that rely on mandatory capacity markets to incent new investment. Those states’ ability and authority to achieve the optimal balance of reduced use of high-emission resources vs. increased use of low-emission resources and energy efficiency is limited.

Public Power is also concerned that utilities with only one baseload generation unit (coal or natural gas) will find it far more difficult to meet steeper CO2 reduction targets. “We will review the EPA proposed rule language to ensure suitable accommodation for the unique needs of single generation units,” said Nipper.

The American Public Power Association (Public Power) represents not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities that power homes, businesses and streets in nearly 2,000 towns and cities, serving 47 million Americans. With no divided loyalties, these utilities are focused on a single mission — providing reliable electricity at a reasonable price, while protecting the environment.

These public power utilities generate, or buy, electricity from diverse sources.  More at www.PublicPower.org.

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:

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/

White House picks FERC enforcement chief Norman Bay to head commission

The White House has nominated Norman Bay, the director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Enforcement, to chair the commission. Upon confirmation by the Senate, he would take over from Cheryl LaFleur, who has served as acting chairman since Nov. 25 and would remain on the commission until her term expires in June. Continue reading