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Glaser: Current CO2 proposal “most aggressive in EPA history”

An expert on the Environmental Protection Agency says the EPA is overstepping its bounds when it comes to proposing emission standards for existing coal-operated power generating plants.

“The current proposal as to existing generation, to me, is one of the most aggressive if not the most aggressive environmental regulation in the 40-year history of the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Peter Glaser, an attorney with Troutman Sanders LLP during a recent Associated Industries of Missouri webinar. “It’s really no exaggeration to say that what EPA has proposed is to re-engineer the electricity grid in the way that electricity is generated in the United States and in the way it is used.”

Wednesday (6/18), EPA opened the comment period on it most recent set of rules on carbon emissions, these dealing with emissions from current generating plants. The rules set out interim goals of emission reduction by 2020, and final goals by 2030 on a state-by-state basis.

“The goals are set at a level that will require a significant reduction in the use of coal to generate electricity,” said Glaser.

The goals are to be achieved by increasing the efficiency of current coal generating plants, increased usage of natural gas for generation, increased generation using renewable resources and an assumption that the U.S. will decrease its consumption of electricity by about 10 percent over the next 15 years.

“(This) to me is just downright crazy,” said Glaser. “More people will be added to the U.S. population in the next 35 years than were added in the post-war boom from 1950 to 1985. So, given that projected population growth, what we’re supposed to do for electricity under the EPA’s proposal is anybody’s guess.”

At the end of the four step analysis, the EPA then comes up with a figure of what each state’s CO2 emissions should be, and that becomes a cap by 2020. The EPA will require each state to come up with its own plan of how it will reach the cap number. Glaser says there will be no way to meet the cap by using more coal, and coal usage will have to decrease significantly nationwide…by 22 percent in 2020, 27 percent in 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

“What EPA is saying to each state at the end of the day is that ‘you need to dramatically decrease your coal generation,’” said Glaser.

That’s not good news for Missouri. Glaser says the amount of coal a state uses to generate power generally correlates to the affordability of electric power. Missouri with more than 80 percent coal generation has some of the lowest electricity rates in the country. That’s bad for business, but it’s also bad for all consumers.

“Coming from this administration, it boggles the mind because this will really be bad for low income people,” said Glaser. “And in Missouri, 16 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Something like 18 percent of the state’s elderly residents receive energy assistance from the state.”

“Rising electricity bills is the last thing in the world that these folks need,” said Glaser.

But Glaser says there is some good news on the horizon. In Glaser’s opinion, both of the EPA’s proposals stand a good chance of being overturned in court. He reasons that the U.S. Clean Air Act was never written to include CO2 emissions. Glaser says the EPA under Obama has been taking greater and greater license with the structure of the clean air act to include CO2 emission limitations. The stretching of the clean air act could eventually lead to the downfall of EPA’s carbon dioxide emission standards.

“I think they’ve gone out on a legal limb with both the new facility proposal and the existing facility proposal,” said Glaser. “When it eventually ends up in court, I think the courts will knock the EPA back a peg.”

Glaser says this will not happen for some time, and in the meantime he and others like him need help from businesses like yours and associations like AIM. The 120 day comment period on the proposed regulations is now open. Glaser says the Obama administration and the EPA have discounted the traditional Washington D.C. voices on this issue. Glaser says it’s time for the states and local businesses to weigh in.

“Manufacturer’s will now get the chance to hit back at the EPA and let them know, this is just a bad idea,” said Glaser. “It’s not a good time, with the economy trying to rebound, to drive up energy prices.”

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