Regulation: Lawmakers get down to details on South Dakota and EPA’s proposed rule

Source: By Inside EPA • Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014

Much of the opposition to EPA’s proposed rules governing power plant GHG emissions rests on broad assertions (illegal, unworkable, damaging to electric reliability, economically unsound), but here’s a case where the issue is very specific and possibly unique, with 10 members of Congress from four states (six senators; four from the House — including one senator-elect; five Republicans, five Democrats) urging EPA to consider what would happen to South Dakota under its proposal.

They tell the agency in a Nov. 24 letter that South Dakota’s reduction target, as proposed, would basically sideline the state’s small generating capacity, one electric generating unit (Otter Tail Power’s 475-Mw sub-bituminous plant, co-owned with two other utilities) and one natural gas combined-cycle (Basin Electric’s 300-Mw Deer Creek plant). “Heavy reliance on the re-dispatch of electricity from coal to natural gas . . . to achieve the state’s required carbon reductions allows for little flexibility,” they say. The “anomalies” in EPA’s plan “would require dispatch of Deer Creek Station at up to a 70% capacity factor while essentially relegating Big Stone Plant, a baseload unit, to intermediate or even seasonal operation.”

In addition, Big Stone already is undergoing a $400 million renovation to comply with regional haze standards. Customers “should not have to absorb the costs of Big Stone Plant environmental upgrades to meet Clean Air Act regional haze requirements only to have a fraction of the energy the facility is capable of producing, at much higher costs per unit of energy,” the lawmakers write.

The signatories hail from South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. They include a newly elected senator, Republican Steve Daines from Montana, and one — Tim Johnson (D-SD) — who has just retired.