The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said Oct. 16 that it is working on a feasibility study related to the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, calling for 32% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 from existing power plants, and is seeking public comment and data through Dec. 31.
West Virginia is the second-largest coal producing state in the U.S. and is heavily reliant on coal-fired power from in-state plants. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has been a leader in opposing the plan, announcing on Oct. 7 that his office has made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for communications between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of the Federal Register regarding the publication of the absolutely final Clean Power Plan.
The planned study concerns the feasibility of developing a state plan for the regulation of emissions of CO2, a greenhouse gas, in order to comply with the requirements in the EPA’s rule. This feasibility study, which is being conducted with participation from Marshall University researchers, is mandated by House Bill 2004, which passed the Legislature earlier this year. The study requires a comprehensive analysis of the potential effects the rule, which is 111 (d) of the Clean Air Act, on the state, its people and its economy.
The department has 180 days from the effective date of the 111 (d) rule to conduct this study. That clock starts when the rule is published in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur later in October. That is when, by the way, a new round of lawsuits are expected to be filed against the bill. The federal courts have said the Federal Register publication date, not Aug. 3 when the final version of the plan was issued, is the official date for the rule for litigation purposes.
If development of a State Implementation Plan (SIP) is deemed feasible, the next step would be to develop such a plan and submit it to the West Virginia Legislature for approval prior to submittal of the plan to the EPA. States must – by Sept. 6, 2016 – either submit a final SIP or file an initial plan with an extension request. Final completed state plans must be submitted no later than Sept. 6, 2018.
The EPA has said it will impose a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) on states that do not submit state plans.
Formal requests for data from electric utilities, various consumer, citizen and industry groups and government entities have also been sent out, said the department. The major utilities serving West Virginia are subsidiaries of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE).