MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA— A West Virginia University law professor says that the proposed Environmental Protection Agency’s rules to regulate power plant emissions will have a disproportionate impact on coal-dependent regions of the country, such as West Virginia, but do provide some flexibility.
The proposed Clean Power Plan rules, issued by the EPA this summer, would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.
“Using the authority granted under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions is not an ideal solution,” said James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the WVU College of Law. “A legislative solution would likely have included measures to provide some relief to regions of the country that are hit particularly hard by the rules. EPA lacks the resources and authority to provide that relief.”
However, Van Nostrand pointed out, EPA’s Clean Power Plan gives states leeway in deciding how to meet the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
“The EPA took into consideration each state’s existing power generation characteristics in developing emissions reductions targets,” he said. “As a result, West Virginia is required to achieve a 20 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2030 from a 2012 baseline, which is a lower target than the 30 percent national target from a 2005 baseline.”
Van Nostrand notes that the options available to West Virginia to meet the 20 percent reduction goal included improving the operating efficiency of existing coal plants, integrating more renewable energy into the generating mix, and ramping up the energy efficiency programs offered by utilities.
“Energy efficiency is the lowest cost compliance option,” said Van Nostrand. “The Clean Power Plan assumes that West Virginia can achieve cumulative 10.1 percent energy savings by 2030 through energy efficiency programs. That is easily achievable if utilities operating in the state expand their energy efficiency program offerings.”
Van Nostrand’s comments to the EPA were part of a public hearing on the Clean Power Plan held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The EPA has convened public hearings in four locations around the country to gather public comment about the proposed rules.
The EPA will issue its final rules for the Clean Power Plan in June 2015, and states will have until July 2016 to develop their implementation plans for achieving the required reductions. WVU Law’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development will be submitting formal comments to the EPA throughout the rulemaking process.
About the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development
The Center for Energy and Sustainable Development is an energy and environmental public policy and research organization founded at the WVU College of Law in 2011. The Center focuses on promoting practices that will balance the continuing demand for energy resources—and the associated economic benefits—alongside the need to reduce the environmental impacts of developing the earth’s natural resources.