The nation's approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions will change thanks to the EPA's new Clean Power Plan.
Now that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has finished its new Clean Power Plan, one outcome has become clear: The nation's approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions is poised to change significantly.And that's why Block Andrews and Mike Borgstadt of Burns & McDonnell are helping electric utilities, regional transmission groups, the coal industry and others affected by the new policy prepare for what lies ahead.
"Utilities must take it seriously now," Andrews says.
The new EPA policy calls for cutting carbon emissions from the power sector nationwide by 32 percent below 2005 levels. And the agency is telling states it will be up to them to figure out how to reach that goal.
That means broader responsibilities for utilities, according to Andrews, an associate environmental engineer in the Energy Group, and Borgstadt, a manager with the Business & Technology Services Group.
Until now, utilities only have been accountable for meeting federal requirements for their own facilities. The new approach will link their efforts to how individual states perform in meeting the federal standard.
"If you're an electric utility, you not only need to control things within your plant, but work with the state Public Service Commission to help achieve the state goals," Andrews says.
"The big thing is it seeks to significantly reduce coal use and increase reliance on natural gas and renewable energy sources."
EPA ‘Building Blocks' for States
Borgstadt says the new EPA policy lays out three "building blocks" for states to lower carbon emissions:
- Make existing coal plants more efficient to reduce carbon emissions.
- Increase use of existing natural gas-fired plants.
- Increase use of renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, as well as nuclear power.
Preparing for Challenges
Before a utility can challenge one or more of the proposed rules in court, it first must formally express its particular objections to the EPA. That means reviewing the policy — and its hundreds of support documents — for potential action.
To help clients prepare, Burns & McDonnell professionals are combing the proposed rules with an eye toward which items could be particularly troublesome and potentially prompt a legal challenge.
Andrews and Borgstadt say the new federal policy will require them to respond and interact in ways they're not accustomed to.
"The key is it touches a lot more people than typical regulations have," Andrews says. "It's a new shift for utilities beyond what they have control over.
"Interested parties will want to work with a broad range of knowledge including transmission, new planning, research, the environment, decommissioning and more."