Grid experts offer interstate-compliance guide for EPA carbon rule 

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Two organizations with expertise in grid reliability today released a set of practical recommendations for how state leaders can go about crafting an interstate compliance program for U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), which represents state utility regulators, and the Eastern Interconnection States Planning Council (EISPC) said in their new guidebook that interstate cooperation has the potential to afford some states a lower-cost compliance option for the existing power plant carbon rule. It tracks with the interstate nature of the grid, the organizations said, and might avoid some of the supply pitfalls stakeholders say they fear.

Coordination among states “may prove frustrating, and we can help reduce some of that frustration by providing a workable starting point,” Gray said.

But the groups’ offering comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to warn that an obscure provision of the Clean Air Act gives Congress the last say in the creation of any interstate compliance plan for a federal air quality rule.

“I can assure you that as long as I am majority leader of the Senate, this body will not sign off on any backdoor national energy tax,” he informed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at a recent hearing. But some Clean Air Act experts say the provision doesn’t give Congress the discretion McConnell claims (Greenwire, May 7).

The toolkit was supported by a grant from the Energy Department and included a checklist for stakeholder coordination, a sample memorandum of understanding among states and a placeholder for guidance to be added later on how states can word legislative language authorizing an interstate model.

The NARUC-EISPC effort takes an informal tone. A section declaring itself a “Wedding Planner’s Guide” for states looking to cooperate on the Clean Power Plan begins: “If you’re reading this and you’re the Governor of a state, you don’t need ideas for who should take the first step: it’s you.”

It goes on to walk state administrations through the process of soliciting stakeholder input, identifying barriers to interstate cooperation in laws already on the books and determining what kind of cooperation would be optimal for them. States might stop short of a regional approach to compliance, it notes, opting to cooperate on some elements and not others or simply sharing ideas for ways to craft individual state plans.

EPA is set to finalize the Clean Power Plan this summer, together with rules for new and modified power plants. The proposal sets deadlines beginning next year for states to submit compliance plans to EPA.