Renewable energy advocates, politicians get ready for upcoming carbon dioxide rules for power plants

by Paul Monies Modified: May 28, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: May 27, 2014

Interest groups and politicians are jockeying for position as the Environmental Protection Agency gets ready to release proposed rules on carbon dioxide emissions for existing power plants.

The rules, expected to be released June 2, will affect Oklahoma utilities and cooperatives. They may have to mothball older plants or install emissions-control equipment, passing the costs along to customers.

While nobody except those inside the administration knows what’s in the proposed EPA rules, experts think they will hinge on several themes. One will be what baseline the agency uses to determine the expected cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Another will be whether EPA lets states only consider cuts “inside the fence” at power plants or if it will let them include emissions reductions “outside the fence” from renewable energy or programs to cut demand for electricity.

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Tom Vinson, vice president of federal regulatory affairs with the American Wind Energy Association, said using only cuts at the smokestack “inside the fence” won’t get to the level of carbon dioxide reductions preferred by President Barack Obama.

“Everybody — conservative states, liberal states, industry and others — have all said no matter how EPA sets the standard, we want as many different compliance options available to us as possible, including wind energy, because we want to put together the cheapest portfolio for our customers,” Vinson said.

The wind association released a study Tuesday showing Oklahoma avoided 6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2013 as a result of the rise of wind power in the state. That amounted to almost 10 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions by Oklahoma power plants last year.

Using a new EPA tool to measure emissions reductions, the association said wind power contributed to a nationwide reduction of almost 127 million tons of carbon dioxide last year, or 5 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector.

“Wind is widely available to states, it’s affordable and it’s reducing emissions by significant amounts in many states, and reducing emissions by at least some in nearly every state,” Vinson said.

Oklahoma ranked seventh in the country for carbon dioxide emissions reductions from wind energy in 2013, the wind association’s analysis found.

“That is a very significant amount, given that there’s a lot more potential for growth in the wind energy sector in your state,” Vinson said. “With wind energy as a compliance option, whatever they propose is going to be doable and it’s going to be affordable.”

Meanwhile, the Solar Energy Industries Association released its analysis of upcoming greenhouse gas rules Tuesday. It said solar was the fastest-growing source of renewable energy last year and is expected to generate enough electricity this year to offset 13.8 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

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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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Everybody — conservative states, liberal states, industry and others — have all said no matter how EPA sets the standard, we want as many different compliance options available to us as possible, including wind energy, because we want to put together the cheapest portfolio for our customers.”

Tom Vinson,
Vice president of federal regulatory affairs, American Wind Energy Association

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