FERC member blasts proposed EPA rule over costs, grid reliability 

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Republican member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission blasted U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan yesterday, warning that the proposal could cost hundreds of billions of dollars and pose complex reliability problems.

FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller said his concerns about EPA’s proposal for curbing carbon emissions at existing power plants have only grown in recent months as grid operators and other stakeholders have stepped forward, and questioned whether EPA is looking closely enough at challenges with implementing the proposal.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Moeller called for a more “formal and transparent process involving FERC (not just its staff) to examine” reliability implications of the proposal.

Moeller said there’s a need to involve electrical engineers and for an open dialogue and debate over what changes to the grid and energy network are feasible and cost-effective in a reasonable time frame.

The commissioner has called for a more formal role for FERC in the past during congressional hearings, but has not taken such a firm stand against the proposal or warned that it could cost in the hundreds of billions.

But Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said the agency met with FERC while developing the proposal during the interagency review process and after it was issued. Purchia said the EPA regularly confers with FERC on matters related to states’ implementation of the agency’s rules and is committed to working closely with the commission and other agencies.

Moeller’s comments arrive on the heels of congressional Republicans urging FERC to publicly meet with EPA, the Energy Department, state regulators and power companies to discuss grid reliability concerns and explain what they say is a failure to coordinate implementation of EPA’s proposal to cut carbon emissions (Greenwire, Nov. 25).

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) asked FERC Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur last month to hold a technical conference to discuss reliability concerns with EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

LaFleur has called for a “reliability mechanism” to be included in the final rule, and has said FERC will get involved in making sure reliability is protected as the Clean Power Plan takes effect (EnergyWire, Nov. 10).