Several state agencies don’t find EPA ‘cooperative’

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not practicing a very “cooperative” brand of federalism, several state regulators told a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on March 9.

State environmental chiefs from states such as Arkansas, South Dakota and West Virginia criticized the Obama administration EPA regulatory actions as inflexible and “one size fits all.”

While EPA was the primary source of their complaints, agencies such as the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also came under criticism.

South Dakota’s Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources Steven Pirner cited some workability problems with federal rules in his state.

“Under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, EPA finalized regulations to regulate coal ash,” Pirner said. “This was prompted by the liquid coal ash spill in Tennessee. Our single coal-fired plant, the Big Stone Power Plant, disposes of only dry ash, but it is still subject to the new rules which pre-empt DENR’s existing solid waste permit.”

The South Dakota official also believes that the EPA Clean Power Plan, designed to have states cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, is unfair to his state.

In 2012, 74 percent of the power generated in South Dakota already came from renewable sources, Pirner said. “In spite of this remarkable record, EPA’s rule threatens the economic viability of the two fossil fuel fired power plants and could strand the Regional Haze controls previously mentioned at the Big Stone Power Plant,” Pirner said.

“The bottom line is these new federal requirements will have a huge impact on our citizens and economy, but will produce little or no noticeable benefits in South Dakota,” Pirner said.

Some state environmental directors, namely those from Vermont and Delaware, held better opinions of EPA.

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said EPA is effective in helping Vermont protect its “land-based economy,” which includes tourism, agriculture and forestry.

The final Clean Power Plan “is fair, flexible and will help the transition to cleaner power,” Markowitz said. “Although Vermont is the only state that has no compliance target under the CPP, we offered comments during the rulemaking that strongly urged the EPA to ensure that market-based solutions like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) could be a compliance mechanism for states.”

With the encouragement of Democrats on the panel, the environmental officials from Vermont and Delaware said their states have benefitted from EPA regulatory efforts to curtail emissions of coal-fired power plants that cross state lines.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 22 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants.

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