Companies, states weigh challenges to Clean Power Plan

Duke Energy coal-fired plant in Asheville, N.C.

Lynn Good, CEO of the nation’s largest electric utility holding company, told the Charlotte Business Journal it was “too early” to take a stand but did not dismiss the possibility that Duke Energy would join the chorus of industry lawsuits filed against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule released in early August.

Numerous states already have filed legal actions against the EPA rule, which calls for a 32 percent reduction below 2005 levels in the next 15 years. The plan also provides boosts for renewable energy projects.

President Obama and Clean Power Plan supporters contend that the emissions reductions will improve the health of Americans. Opponents say it puts undue economic pressure on utilities and customers who likely will have to pay higher rates to cover expenses of environmental compliance.

The states that filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia include Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The nation’s largest privately held coal mining company, Murray Energy Corp. filed an earlier lawsuit preceding the plan’s release by six weeks.

The EPA edict actually puts stricter benchmarks on emissions than it proposed previously, but gives the utilities two more years to meet those outputs. Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn called the EPA plan “the most comprehensive, far-reaching regulation ever promulgated by the federal government to impact the electric power sector and will significantly change electric utility operations well into the future.”

Even so, Kuhn said the nation’s utilities have made huge strides in producing cleaner power generation. He estimated that utilities reduced carbon dioxide emissions last year by 15 percent below 2005 levels.

Nearly one-third of U.S. power generation came from zero-emissions sources such as nuclear, wind and solar, Kuhn said in the EEI statement. Between 1990 and 2014, he added, emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide were cut by 74 percent and 80 percent, respectively, while electricity demand grew by 36 percent during the same period.

“Our industry also is making significant investments in renewables and in the grid infrastructure needed to deliver renewables to customers,” Kuhn said. “In fact, utility-scale solar projects now amount to almost 60 percent of installed solar capacity, and the amount of electricity produced from wind doubled from 2010 to 2014.”
Go to http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan for more information on the EPA rules.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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