Ind. governor vows to refuse Clean Power Plan compliance absent changes 

Source: Jeffrey Tomich, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 26, 2015

Weeks before U.S. EPA issues its final Clean Power Plan rule, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said the landmark environmental regulation must undergo an extreme makeover or his state won’t comply.

Pence issued his demands in a letter to President Obama yesterday. In doing so, Indiana joins Oklahoma in vowing to refuse compliance with the Obama administration’s plan to slash carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

“The proposed rules are ill-conceived and poorly constructed and they exceed the EPA’s legal authority under the Clean Air Act,” Pence said in the letter. He said the state will also “use any legal means available” to block the rule from being implemented.

The statement comes just two weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a lawsuit seeking to stop the final Clean Power Plan rule from being issued. Indiana was among 14 states to join the lawsuit (Greenwire, June 9).

It also comes a week after Pence announced his bid for re-election amid flagging poll numbers.

Pence has been steadfast in his opposition to the Clean Power Plan. He criticized the proposal the day it was announced in a speech to Midwest utility regulators, vowing to “stand up for our traditional carbon-based, coal-burning power plants” (EnergyWire, June 2, 2014).

Like many other Midwest states, Indiana relies on coal for the bulk of its electric generation. It also has among the lowest carbon reduction goals in the nation — 20 percent.

But Pence said the Clean Power Plan “will raise electricity costs on Hoosiers, result in less reliable electricity and impede economic growth and prosperity.”

“If your administration proceeds to finalize the Clean Power Plan, and the final rule has not demonstrably and significantly improved from the proposed rule, Indiana will not comply.”

‘Just say no’ or retain control — which is better for Indiana?

Pence’s statement drew applause from fellow Indiana Republicans, including Sen. Dan Coats and state GOP Chairman Jeff Cardwell, as well as national coal and mining industry groups.

“Indiana relies on coal for 87 percent of its electricity; forcing more low-cost coal generation out of Indiana will make Hoosiers dangerously reliant on less reliable and more expensive sources of electricity,” Hal Quinn, chief executive of the National Mining Association, said in a statement.

Environmental advocates said Pence’s threat to “just say no” to the Clean Power Plan can only hurt Indiana, which would face a yet-to-be-released federal implementation plan for reducing carbon if it refuses to develop its own. EPA is expected to release the federal plan when the final rule is issued.

“We would rather have Indiana be in control of our destiny than have a federal plan imposed on us,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

Perras, formerly a deputy commissioner at the state Department of Environmental Management, said the refusal to cooperate with EPA is unprecedented. Indiana has challenged federal environmental regulations in the past, but it has always worked on a parallel track to develop compliance plans, she said.

Clean energy advocates say Indiana’s carbon reduction goal could easily be met if the state could meet a modest 10 percent renewable energy goal and followed through with its energy efficiency standard put in place by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

“It’s not a stretch at all,” Perras said. “We had policies in place to do that.”

But one of those policies is no longer in place. The efficiency standard was repealed by the Republican-led Legislature earlier this year, even though independent evaluations showed it was overwhelmingly cost-effective (EnergyWire, April 13).

No specific changes requested

Pence’s letter didn’t specify what changes the state is seeking in the final rule in order to comply. In the state’s formal comments on the proposal submitted to EPA on Dec. 1, state agencies urged EPA to eliminate the interim compliance requirement, adopt a “safety valve” that would allow coal plants to continue running for reliability purposes and make myriad other changes.

EPA has sent strong signals that the final rule would include changes based on the 4.3 million public comments received. Most recently, acting EPA air chief Janet McCabe, a former Indiana air regulator who still lives in Indianapolis, suggested the final rule would specifically address concerns about the interim compliance requirements (EnergyWire, June 9).

Asked to comment on Pence’s letter, EPA again said the final rule would deliver on promises to reduce carbon pollution while enabling continued economic growth.

“This vital input is giving the agency the opportunity to address a wide range of issues in the draft final rule that will deliver a clean, affordable and reliable electricity supply, drive American innovation and American jobs, and that will demonstrate U.S. leadership within the international community,” the agency said in a statement.