States seeking technical advice on aspects of EPA power plant proposal

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Senior U.S. EPA personnel spent much of the summer briefing states about the agency’s proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, according to new entries posted to the draft rule’s docket.

Officials from Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, California, New Hampshire and Nevada participated in meetings and telephone calls with EPA personnel to answer technical questions on the draft rule, according to entries posted Wednesday and Friday. Utilities, cities including Denver, and foreign countries including Denmark and Germany were also briefed.

EPA was represented in several of the meetings by regional staff, though Office of Air and Radiation Senior Counsel Joe Goffman represented the agency at a July 17 briefing that drew participants from 14 Western states and a handful of other stakeholders.

States that have expressed significant concerns about the rule were represented in many of these briefings, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters last week that they tended to focus more on policy and technical details than on anti-regulatory rhetoric.

“I think the public discussion might be a little different than the roll-up-the-sleeves, technical discussions we’re having around these rules,” she said during a round table at EPA headquarters.

States and others are currently writing comments on the draft to be submitted to EPA by Dec. 1. Many states are expected to make the case that they deserve less stringent carbon intensity targets than the draft rule assigns them.

The rule is due to be finalized next June — a deadline McCarthy says the agency is still “working towards,” despite extending its public comment deadline. Once it is final, states will have a year to write an implementation plan to comply with those state targets, though they may apply for an extension.

McCarthy warned last week that states should take the plan-writing process seriously, and should consider alternate ways of reaching their targets should their first plan fall short (Greenwire, Sept. 26).

The reduction requirements will be federally enforceable, she cautioned. And states may not have an opportunity later on to scrap their plans and rewrite them if a new governor is elected who disagrees with a past administration’s position.

“The way that it works is they don’t get that easily changed,” she said. “Once the plans come in and they’re approved, those are the plans, and it takes a specific agency action to allow that plan to be changed.”