A total of 15 Republican governors on Sept. 9 sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back off on its proposed Clean Power Plan, which requires CO2 reductions from existing power plants.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who oversees a state that both produces coal and relies on it for power production, was one of the signatories. “I am confident the new EPA proposal will hurt hard working families in Alabama by increasing their electricity bills,” Bentley said in a Sept. 10 statement. “The goal of this letter is for governors to identify the concerns we have with the proposal and encourage the President to develop an energy policy that pursues affordable and reliable energy instead of one that will increase electricity bills and, more importantly, cut jobs in Alabama.”
The EPA in June released the Clean Power Plan, which would cut carbon emissions by 30% from existing power plants by 2030. Bentley said believes the EPA would exceed its authority in issuing these new regulations.
In February, Bentley sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on behalf of the Southern States Energy Board expressing concerns with the EPA’s direction on power plant emissions. Bentley currently serves as chairman of the energy board and, in the letter, said some regions of the country will be more dramatically impacted than others. The letter further states that the economies of coal and natural gas have helped develop a critical manufacturing and industrial base leading to an improved quality of life not only for residents of the South but also for the nation.
The letter to the President highlights five compliance issues and urges the President and EPA Administrator. The letter also requests the Obama Administration provide an informed plan for the states to address these significant state compliance concerns in advance of the comment deadline on Oct. 16.
Said one part of the Sept. 9 letter to Obama: “Your proposal entails significant fuel switching from coal to natural gas, but most retiring coal plants cannot simply be replaced by natural gas plants. Before this switch can occur, gas infrastructure, including storage facilities, must be built. The necessary pipelines require permits, and in many cases, federal approval. Before your proposal, studies indicated the need for more than $300 billion in gas infrastructure investment between now and 2035. Currently, EPA projects that its proposal will result in nearly 50 gigawatts of retirements of baseload coal generation between 2016 and 2020, creating an even greater demand for infrastructure investment.”
In that regard, the letter asks:
- What steps will the Administration take to ensure the necessary construction of interstate natural gas infrastructure, including pipelines?
- Will it consider expediting the environmental impact study (EIS) process so that gas transmission can be built to serve constrained regions?
- What is the estimated cost of the gas infrastructure required to meet compliance targets under the proposal, and who does the federal government foresee paying for it?
The letter added: “Your proposal also supports nuclear power as a key part of your carbon dioxide emissions reduction strategy. Since renewables cannot replace the baseload generation attributes of retiring coal plants, maintaining existing reactors and building new units is essential for many states to reach their assigned reduction targets. However, at least nine states have bans on new nuclear builds, which will remain in effect until the federal government, at least to some degree, resolves the waste disposal issue.”
The letter asks on the nuclear point:
- Given the Administration’s opposition to make use of the permanent Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, will it bring forward a viable, long-term solution for disposal that would win public support and the necessary votes in Congress? And if so, when?
- If not, does the Administration expect the states with bans on new nuclear facilities to revise their laws, despite the federal government’s failure to adequately address the waste issue?
The signatories to the letter are the governors of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.