EPA plan for power plant carbon dioxide cuts draw reliability concerns in Oklahoma

Proposed federal rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions at electric power plants could affect reliability in the regional grid, policymakers and industry officials heard at a meeting organized by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
by Paul Monies Published: August 22, 2014
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photo - Pie chart that shows sources used to generate electricity. The Seattle Times 

with ENV-CARBON-EMISSIONS, The Seattle Times
Pie chart that shows sources used to generate electricity. The Seattle Times

with ENV-CARBON-EMISSIONS, The Seattle Times

Reliability concerns and an aggressive timeline for possible implementation were among the issues raised Thursday at an informational meeting on proposed carbon dioxide emissions rules for power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency released proposals in June that would mean carbon dioxide reductions of more than 40 percent from Oklahoma power plants by 2030.

EPA is taking public comments on the proposed rule until Oct. 16, although it may extend the comment period. The agency wants to have a final rule issued by June 2015.

Utility employees, environmental groups and industry representatives from natural gas, wind and coal joined policymakers for Thursday’s meeting at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The meeting was organized by Commissioner Dana Murphy.

The Department of Environmental Quality already has 12 employees studying the proposed rules and how they might be implemented in the state, said Eddie Terrill, director of the air quality division.

“I know EPA is on this timeframe they’re on, but I’m not sure it’s realistic,” Terrill said. “This plan is unlike anything we’ve ever done in the past.”

State develops plan

Terrill said DEQ plans to work with the Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment’s office to develop a plan for implementation. If the state fails to act, the EPA could impose its own plan, he said.

Rob Lawrence, an outreach coordinator for the EPA region that includes Oklahoma, said the agency has tried to be flexible.

EPA suggests states follow several “building blocks” to meet carbon dioxide emissions reductions. They include increasing power plant efficiency, switching from coal to natural gas, adding renewable energy and reducing consumer demand for electricity. States can also pool their carbon dioxide reductions on a regional basis.

“It’s a nationwide rule with state implementation because we recognize everyone’s power base is different,” Lawrence said. “It’s up to the states to fix the problem as they see fit; they are in the driver’s seat.”

More natural gas

If the rule goes into effect, Lawrence said EPA expects natural gas and coal to each make up more than 30 percent of electricity generation by 2030. Coal generated about 39 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2013. Natural gas was at 27 percent.

“Coal is not being zeroed out; that’s not the goal of the plan,” Lawrence said. “It’s to achieve a more balanced approach.”

Commissioner Patrice Douglas asked Lawrence to explain EPA’s authority to issue the proposed rules. Douglas said Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act includes both House and Senate versions from bills that were never reconciled.

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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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EPA’s Clean Power Plan

For more information on the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, go to the following sites:

EPA: www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards

Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality: www.deq.state.ok.us/aqdnew/RulesAndPlanning/cleanpower111d/

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