Tuesday, August 5, 2014

State air quality director speaks at EPA public hearing on carbon rules


RALEIGH – The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan for regulating greenhouse gas emissions has legal and technical issues that should be addressed before moving forward with the rules, according to comments submitted on the plan by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality, delivered the comments at an EPA hearing in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. One of DENR’s key concerns, Holman said, is that legal flaws in the plan could prompt the courts to overturn the rules after states have expended substantial resources trying to carry them out – a situation that has occurred in recent years with other EPA regulations such as the Clean Air Mercury Rule, the Clean Air Interstate Rule and the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule.
“The final rule, whatever form it ultimately takes, should not require states to begin taking action until the completion of judicial review,” Holman said. “This is to preserve the state’s limited resources and ensure that actions taken in response to the EPA rules will not be for naught.”
Some of the legal issues identified by DENR include:
- The EPA has proposed regulating new fossil-fuel power plants under the Clean Air Act based on its finding that carbon capture and sequestration has been demonstrated, despite concerns about the feasibility of this technology.
- The proposed rule would regulate existing power-generation sources covered under different sections of the Clean Air Act, despite previous court rulings that prohibit regulations that overlap separate sections of the act.
- The proposed rule would regulate a broad range of energy production sources under a section of the Clean Air Act aimed at a specific source category, coal-fired power plants.
DENR also has concerns about the equitability of the EPA proposal among the various states, Holman said. The EPA proposal sets separate greenhouse gas reduction targets for the states based on their mix of electric power generation from various sources, including coal, nuclear, natural gas, wind and solar power. Under the EPA plan, states with diverse mixes of energy sources – such as North Carolina – would be required to achieve higher reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants than states that generate most of their power from coal.
“Since the EPA based the potential improvements on the current energy portfolio, the resultant rule has the outcome of requiring the smallest GHG (greenhouse gas) reductions from states with the highest coal usage,” she said.The complete text of Holman’s comments can be viewed at this page on the DAQ website: http://www.ncair.org/rules/EGUs/.

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