FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2014
CONTACT: Snake River Alliance
Ken Miller, Clean Energy Program Director
208-344-9161 (w); 208-841-6982 (c)
Liz Woodruff, Executive Director
208-344-9161 (w); 208-871-4597 (c)
Snake River Alliance Applauds Overdue EPA Plan to Slash Coal Emissions
Impacts and Benefits to Idaho Electricity Customers Still Undetermined
BOISE – The federal Environmental Protection Agency draft rule to crack down on carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants will change the nation’s electric power industry forever, but the impacts to Idaho utilities and their customers can be minimized with careful planning on how our utilities can begin to phase out coal power in favor of cleaner alternatives, the Snake River Alliance said Monday.
“This draft rule to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants serving Idaho customers is long overdue, but utilities nationwide have already shown how this transformative, ongoing shift to new forms of energy does not need to take a toll on power customers,” Alliance Clean Energy Program Director Ken Miller said. “What remains to be seen is how Idaho utilities and policy-makers decide to exercise the flexibility contained in the EPA clean air rule to minimize the impacts of perhaps the biggest EPA anti-pollution rule in decades.”
As the Alliance has reported in multiple reports (http://snakeriveralliance.org/things-to-read/), Idaho has no utility-scale coal plants, yet our utilities rely on out-of-state coal-fired generation for more than 40 percent of our power generation. “The fact that there are no plants in Idaho does not let Idaho and our utilities off the hook for the pollution created by power plants regardless of where those plants are,” Miller said. “If an Idaho utility owns any percentage of a coal plant in partnership with other utilities, it also owns the same percentage of the emissions from those plants. We can’t escape our responsibility for our pollution simply because these plants are located in Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and elsewhere.”
EPA’s rule (www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan) Monday comes under provisions in the landmark 1970 Clean Air Act , known as “Rule 111(d),” which addresses coal plant emissions. The EPA was authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. It has already proposed a rule to reduce emissions from new coal plants, but the odds of new plants being built are remote. That’s why the draft rule on aging existing plants is so critical in reducing the largest single stationary source of greenhouse gas emissions: electricity production plants. Coal plants account for 40 percent of those emissions, much more than any other stationary source. The nation’s 600-plus operating coal plants are about the last remaining source of unregulated carbon emissions. The utilities importing coal-fired generation into Idaho include Idaho Power, Spokane-based Avista Utilities in northern Idaho, and PacifiCorp, which does business in southeast Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power.
“States, cities and businesses across the country are already taking action to address the risks of climate change,” EPA said in rolling out the rule. “EPA’s proposal builds on those actions and is flexible, reflecting that different states have a different mix of sources and opportunities, and reflecting the important role of states as full partners with the federal government in cutting pollution. This proposal will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment for now and for future generations.” While acknowledging the rule could cost $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion by 2030, EPA projects its Clean Power Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children. Far from increasing electricity bills, EPA also projects the rule will reduce electricity bills by 2030.
EPA’s rule would require coal plants to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It is the centerpiece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The rule, expected to be finalized in one year but likely litigated at length, gives states until 2018 to develop compliance plans for EPA review. The Alliance said EPA’s decision to include various compliance options makes more sense than imposing strict “inside the fence line” reductions on specific plants
“Flexibility in complying with this rule is key in achieving compliance by the states,” Miller said. “We believe Idaho will seize the opportunity to proactively reduce our emissions. It’s no longer a matter of whether our state and utilities choose to act, but how they act. The days of utilities blaming delays in reducing their coal emissions on the lack of a federal requirement are now numbered.”
“As the Alliance found in its recent reports on the use of coal power by Idaho utilities, reducing and eventually eliminating the operation of those plants does not have to be the economic calamity the electric utility and coal sectors predict. Far from it. Our analysis shows that the cleaner replacement energy options can be developed with customer dollars that would otherwise have been directed at expensive coal plant anti-pollution upgrades, saving future dirty energy expenses while at the same time bringing jobs and major new economic activity that would come with “made in Idaho” new energy resources,” Miller said.
The Snake River Alliance works for responsible solutions to nuclear waste and a nuclear-free future. It seeks to strengthen Idaho’s economy and communities through the implementation of renewable energy sources in Idaho and the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation.