By Tammy Gray
In a decision that has been dubbed “a rare victory for the Obama administration’s green policy,” the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on cross-state air pollution (CSAPR), which focus on emissions from coal-fired power plants that make their way across state borders.
While the rules focus mainly on eastern states, they apply as far west as Texas and have implications for coal plants across the country, including those in Arizona. Those in opposition to the rules voiced concerns that, combined with other new regulations, the rules will force coal-fired power plants to shut down, eliminate much-needed jobs and drive up the cost of electricity.
“This is just the latest blow to jobs and affordable energy,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) said in a jointly issued statement. “The administration’s overreaching regulation will drive up energy costs and threaten jobs and electric reliability. We cannot allow EPA’s aggressive regulatory expansion to go unchecked.”
“The EPA continually attempts to sidestep Congress and expand its role in advancing a partisan political agenda,” noted Congressman and Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). “Costly and burdensome regulations put American jobs at risk. Disregarding the authority of Congress to set environmental policy undermines the democratic process.”
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity representative Laura Sheehan noted, “EPA continues to abuse the Clean Air Act, imposing overreaching regulations that promise little gain with great pain for American consumers and the broader American economy. With the Supreme Court’s ruling today (April 29), we are profoundly concerned about the costs and reliability impacts of rules like CSAPR, and the absence of oversight in identifying and addressing such concerns. While CSAPR is just one example of President Obama’s climate crusade, EPA’s forthcoming carbon rule on existing generating units promises to be the most flagrant and costly abuse of the Clean Air Act to date.”
According to the EPA, the rules will, “Save up to 34,000 lives per year, prevent 400,000 asthma attacks per year, avoid 1.8 million sick days per year and provide benefits of $120 to $280 billion per year.”
Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp stated, “Today’s Supreme Court decision means that millions of Americans can breathe easier. Power plant pollution creates serious health risks for millions of Americans, especially children and the elderly. The Supreme Court’s decision means that our nation can take the necessary steps to ensure healthier and longer lives for the 240 million Americans at risk from power plant smokestack pollution near and far.”
Stricter regulations, including an upcoming rule that will severely limit coal plant emissions and could take effect as soon as 2018, have put the future of Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) Cholla Power Plant in doubt. APS did not have a comment on the Supreme Court ruling prior to press time, however, a 2013 report produced by APS Chief Sustainability Officer Ann Becker noted that no other coal-powered plant has ever met the requirements laid out by the EPA for nitrogen oxide emissions.
“(The) proposed NOx (nitrogen oxide) limit is unachievable; no coal plant has ever achieved the NOx rate EPA proposed for Cholla,” the report states.
APS spokesperson Damon Gross previously noted that the company is considering several possible scenarios for the future of the Cholla plant based on new regulations, but no decisions are expected for several months.
“We are in the processes of determining the plan for the plant for the long-term,” he said.
State leaders have made efforts to sidestep the proposed EPA regulations by arguing that only the state has the right to enforce certain environmental regulations within its own borders. A bill introduced to the legislature in February specifically attempted to negate the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Air Act in Arizona.
Stricter EPA regulations have already changed the way APS produces electricity. The Solar Electric Power Association recently unveiled a partial report, with the full report due this month, that ranked APS third for new solar installation in 2013 and fourth for solar watts per customer, as well as total solar capacity. APS notes that the company installed 410 megawatts of new solar capacity in 2013.
By Tammy Gray