Governors along East Coast partner against pollution, in support of infrastructure

Eight Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states on Dec. 9 petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require upwind states, including Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, to reduce air pollution generated within their borders, according to a statement from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.

Other governors in the region released similar statements.

The multi-state action is aimed at requiring nine upwind states, which also include Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, to be a “good neighbor” by reducing air pollution emissions that are carried by prevailing winds and contribute to the formation of ozone to the north and east, according to Markell’s statement.

States filing the petition are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The petition cites decades of inaction by the upwind states during which time the eight Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states have spent tens of billions of dollars to reduce their own air emissions. The petition asks the EPA to require the nine upwind states to join them in what is known as the “Ozone Transport Region,” (OTR), of which the eight Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states are a part.

The statement further noted that under the federal Clean Air Act, states added to the OTR would have to take actions to limit air pollution consistent with the efforts of the downwind states through the use of readily available control technologies and reliance on cleaner fuels to generation power.

“Transported air pollution is a major cause of continued nonattainment of the ozone standard in the OTR and in many states upwind of the OTR,” the governors said in their Nov. 9 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “States within the OTR have adopted stringent controls at significant cost. Continued nonattainment burdens our economies and deters economic growth. States outside of the OTR are not required to install the same basic controls on a statewide basis but only in nonattainment areas, and they sometimes seek and obtain waivers from even that limited obligation. We believe expansion of the transport region and implementation of the required controls in upwind states are necessary for all of the OTR to achieve attainment in a timely manner.”

According to the statement, EPA modeling shows that interstate transport of air pollution contributes significantly to violations of health-based air quality standards for ground-level ozone within their borders. As much as 70% to 98% of this ozone air pollution problem is blown in from upwind states.

The cost of removing an additional ton of pollution in downwind states is estimated at between $10,000 to $40,000 – compared to as little as $500 a ton in upwind states, where even some basic control technologies have not been installed, the statement noted.

Markell said in the statement that Delaware air quality remains overwhelmed by air pollution from upwind states, even though the state has reduced emissions of ozone-forming pollution by more than 70% since 1990.

“While Delaware’s in-state sources are well-controlled with state-of-the-art technology, this is simply not true of our upwind neighbors,” he said. “As a result, Delaware pays more for healthcare resulting from respiratory illnesses and our industries are forced to do more than those in the states causing the pollution, and that’s simply unfair. We need a level playing field among states to ensure that all states can enjoy healthy air.”

Other governors commented in the statement, including Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

“Connecticut is tired of serving as the tailpipe of America,” Malloy said. “We’re paying a steep public health and economic price for the failure of upwind states to make investments needed to operate power plants and industrial facilities in a clean and efficient manner. Now is the ideal time – with cheap natural gas available – to get the upwind polluters to take action.”

New England governors’ commitment on infrastructure

On Dec. 5, the six New England governors committed to continue to work together, in coordination with ISO New England (ISO-NE) and through the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), to advance a regional energy infrastructure initiative that diversifies the energy supply portfolio while ensuring that the benefits and costs of transmission and pipeline investments are shared appropriately among the states.

“At the same time, we must respect individual state perspectives, particularly those of host states, as well as the natural resources, environment, and economy of the states, and ensure that the citizens and other stakeholders of our region, including NEPOOL, are involved in the process,” the governors added in their statement. “The governors are committed to achieving consensus as we move forward, consistent with laws and policies across the region.”

The states believe that investments in local renewable generation, combined heat and power, and renewable and competitively priced heating for buildings will support local markets and result in additional cost savings, new jobs and economic opportunities, and environmental gains, the governors said.

Furthermore, the states believe that those investments must be advanced in a coordinated approach in order to maximize ratepayer savings and system integrity.

“We will continue to advocate at [ISO-NE], NEPOOL, and elsewhere for greater integration and utilization of renewable generation; development of new natural gas pipeline infrastructure; maximizing the use of existing transmission infrastructure; investment, where appropriate, in new transmission infrastructure; and continuation of the inclusion of energy efficiency – and the addition of distributed generation – in load forecasting and transmission planning,” the governors added.

The governors said they have directed their staff to work together with NESCOE to ensure that they are taking all necessary steps to meet their common needs and goals.

“We believe that by working together we can expand economic development, promote job growth, improve the competitiveness of our industries, enhance system reliability, and protect and increase the quality of life of our citizens,” they said.

In a Dec. 5 press release, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said that the region’s energy costs are not competitive, adding that its high energy prices drain family budgets and are a significant barrier to attracting business investment, especially in energy-intensive industries.

“At the same time, we are geographically positioned to take advantage of competitively priced natural gas and hydropower resources if we collectively invest in key infrastructure,” he said.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said in the statement that energy prices remain higher than in other parts of the country because of severe constraints on the flow of electricity and natural gas into Connecticut. “By working closely with New England neighbors who face similar challenges we can thoughtfully plan and develop the network of electric transmission lines and natural gas pipeline needed to meet our goal of providing cheaper, cleaner and more reliable power for Connecticut.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said, “By expanding opportunities for large-scale hydro, wind and other renewable energy sources, we are putting thousands of our residents to work and creating a healthier region for the next generation.”
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said in the statement that he remains committed to the advancement of affordable hydropower, as well as other renewable energy resources that can improve electric reliability, stabilize and lower long-term energy costs and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said that coordinating electric and gas transmission in the region will put downward pressure on power rates into the future, and ensure that any infrastructure built is needed and cost-effective for Vermonters and all New England consumers.

Northeast Utilities’ (NYSE:NU) wholly owned subsidiary Northern Pass Transmission, in a Dec. 6 statement posted on its website, said that it believes the Northern Pass project “is an ideal fit with the goals outlined in the statement. We understand that regional leaders must consider a multitude of options to address our energy challenges; no other project in all of New England comes closer to being able to deliver – any sooner or more economically – than Northern Pass.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2807 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 13 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at corinar@pennwell.com.