Midwest collaborative seeks flexibility on Clean Power Plan

A group of Midwestern regulators, environmentalists and utility representatives headed to Washington, D.C. this week to ask that states and utilities who have reduced their carbon emissions receive credit for their efforts under in the Clean Power Plan of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Convened over the past two years by the Great Plains Institute, the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative calls for the EPA to consider crediting states and utilities for reducing carbon emissions and adding renewable energy prior to the Clean Power Plan’s implementation, said Franz Litz, program consultant.

“Essentially they’re looking for credits for things that are done not only between now and when the rule kicks in in 2020 but also prior to 2012,” he said, referring to the year the EPA will use as a baseline. “The idea is that you won’t get penalized for doing things early, and ideally you’d get some credit.”

The Great Plains Institute (GPI) is a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.

The Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce carbon emissions in the United States by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The agency has set specific goals for reducing carbon emissions in each state, giving each of them great latitude how to they might accomplish that.

The Collaborative, in fact, submitted comments in June asking the EPA to be flexible in creating emission targets and to put states in the driver’s seat for deciding how to reach the emission reduction goals, he said. In addition, the group asked to allow multi-state approaches to carbon emissions because they would be less expensive.

Those comments mirrored that of many other groups that provided the EPA with input, and the agency has added those into the current rule, Litz said. Another round of comments was offered by Collaborative members Tuesday in Washington.

“We delivered comments last November and its reaction was pretty amazing — they looked and said ‘wow, you have industry folks, big utilities, smaller co-ops, you have state representatives and regional and national environmental groups, all at the same table,'” he said.

The group includes more than two dozen participating members from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Observers in the group were from Missouri and Kentucky, said Litz. The Collaborative has met since 2012, using a mix of in-person meetings and conference calls.

GPI, which has convened many multi-state stakeholder projects in the past, brought the Collaborative together “because this region has so much at stake in how this winds up getting finalized,” he said. “The rules are aimed at carbon dioxide emissions at power plants and the rule will have an impact on the generation mix, whether renewables get built — it all factors in.”

Brad Crabtree, vice president of fossil energy at the GPI, said the Midwest relies more on coal than many other regions and has concerns over how the Clean Power Plan is implemented. States and utilities want to meet the EPA’s targets, he said, but do that while maintaining affordable energy for customers.

By going to the EPA as a concerted group with environmental, regulatory and utility representation, the region has a much better chance of influencing the final regulation that will come out later next year, he argued.

Doug Scott, chair of the Illinois Commerce Commission, said being part of the Collaborative offered him an opportunity to speak to advocates on all the sides of the issue. It is rare, he said, to have environmentalists, regulators and utility representatives come together across a region to support a compliance and to speak to the EPA in one voice.

“I think we really helped the EPA understand the issues before them,” he said. “I think they appreciated the spirit of compromise among our regional group and will take seriously, make changes and implement what we asked for.”

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