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EPA Delays Finalizing Clean Power Plan Rule Until Mid-Summer

A final version of three U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposals to cut carbon pollution from the power sector, which some had anticipated as early as this week, will not be completed until the middle of summer, according to Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

"We will be working to issue a final Clean Power Plan and final standards for new, reconstructed and modified sources by mid-summer of 2015," McCabe said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

"We think these additional few weeks will give us the time we need to review the extensive public comments on all three proposals -- more than four million in total -- and finalize a suite of rules that takes into account any and all...cross-cutting issues."

In June 2013, President Obama directed EPA to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholders to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants (see Daily GPIJune 26, 2013). A presidential memorandum called for EPA to finalize the proposed Clean Power Plan by June 1, 2015.

Since then, EPA has issued three proposals in an effort to cut carbon pollution from the power sector, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. One covered new power plants (see Daily GPISept. 23, 2013), another covered existing power plants (see Daily GPIJune 2, 2014), and a third covered modified and reconstructed plants.

Industry organizations overall have called the proposed rules an economic burden, while environmental groups urged their implementation to help prevent climate change.

EPA subsequently granted a 45-day extension to the public comment period, and issued a Notice of Data Availability, which "unavoidably and, we believe completely appropriately, added time to our schedule," McCabe said.

EPA has received more than two million public comments on the first proposal and another two million comments combined on the second and third proposals, McCabe said (see Daily GPIDec. 4, 2014).

"It's become clear to us -- and many commentors have raised it as well -- that there are cross-cutting topics that affect the standards for new sources, for modified sources and for existing sources, and we believe that it's essential to consider these overlapping issues in a coordinated fashion. To do so, we think, requires us to finalize all three rules -- the new source standard, the standards for modified and reconstructed sources, and the clean power plan for existing sources -- in a similar time frame."

The proposed rules aim to cut carbon emissions from the power generation sector 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, a move that has been cautiously embraced by the natural gas industry, characterized as a "coal killer" by some critics, and hailed by environmental groups as a major effort to address climate change.

A trio of powerful congressional Republicans, citing "an apparent pattern of limited substantive FERC input" in the development of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and rulemakings bearing on electric reliability, recently asked individual commissioners to provide details of any such collaboration between the agencies (see Daily GPIDec. 23, 2014).

On Dec. 9, FERC announced a series of technical conferences to discuss implications of compliance approaches to EPA's proposed rule. The conferences, which are to focus on issues related to electric reliability, wholesale electric markets and operations, and energy infrastructure, would begin with a national overview session at FERC headquarters in Washington, DC, on Feb. 19. Subsequent staff-led regional technical conferences are scheduled to be held in Washington, St. Louis and Denver on dates yet to be announced.

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