US EPA should give states flexibility in forthcoming GHG regs: Xcel VP
Washington (Platts)--5Feb2013/555 pm EST/2255 GMT
States that have already developed and implemented carbon dioxide
cap-and-trade systems, energy efficiency rules, renewable portfolio standards
and other clean energy programs should be given credit for their efforts when
the Obama administration proposes its greenhouse gas rules for existing power
plants, an executive with Xcel Energy said Tuesday.
"It's critical that states are allowed to recognize early action
credit," Frank Prager, Minnesota-based Xcel's vice president of environmental
affairs, said at the winter meeting of the National Association of Regulatory
Utility Commissioners in Washington.
"We have invested a lot of money in the last 10 years to reduce our
carbon dioxide emissions, and others have done the same," he said. "If that
early action is not recognized, and that money is, in essence, wasted, our
customers are going to be paying twice, once for the improvements we made in
the early part of the decade, and then again going forward."
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Furthermore, he said, EPA's forthcoming GHG regulations for existing
power plants should take a more holistic look at each state's electricity
generating landscape, instead of issuing rules for each individual power
For example, while one specific power plant in a state may be a large
emitter of GHGs, a utility might have adopted energy efficiency technologies
or renewable energy generation in other parts of its service area that should
be taken into consideration, he said.
"If you only consider what you can achieve inside a [power] plant using
source-specific technology today, you're going to be limited to a few
percentage reduction in emissions," Prager said. "But when you expand that
and look outside the plant, you can find greater reductions in emissions at
EPA has not announced when it plans to propose GHG standards for
existing power plants, but it is required to do so under the Clean Air Act
after determining that GHGs constitute a hazard to public health.
Given President Barack Obama's emphasis in his inaugural address last
month on fighting climate change, many expect EPA to propose those rules
sometime soon. EPA is in the process of finalizing its GHG standards for new
or modified power plants.
Megan Ceronsky, a climate and air attorney with the Environmental
Defense Fund, largely agreed with Prager's comments, saying plant-by-plant
GHG regulations would be "rigid, expensive and not particularly effective."
She also advocated for a flexible, holistic, systemwide approach to GHG
rules, suggesting that EPA could implement an emissions credit trading
system similar to one it has for sulfur dioxide.
"That's the broad idea, and there are a number of frameworks to do
that," Ceronsky said. "The idea would be, EPA would figure out a best system,
but then they would say to states, 'You can use the systems we've identified,
or you can come to us with the best systems that makes sense for your own
states and show that you're going to get to the same level of emissions
David Littell, a member of the Maine Public Utility Commission, said the
EPA will have several thorny issues to sort out when it proposes its GHG
rules. For example, it will need to decide on a baseline year to determine
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system
implemented in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, benchmarked its states'
reductions by comparing them with the average emissions between 2000 and
2002, he said.
California's cap-and-trade system used 2005 emission levels as a
baseline. The international Kyoto Protocol treaty used 1990 emissions as its
EPA will also have to decide how much of a reduction in GHG emissions it
will aim for and how quickly to phase those limits in, Littell said.
"Different states will be in different situations, and there are a lot
of [years] to choose from," Littell said. "It makes a big difference."
--Herman Wang, email@example.com
--Edited by Jason Lindquist, firstname.lastname@example.org