Wisconsin and 15 Other States' Modest Request of the EPA

Posted on August 28, 2015
Posted By: Stephen Heins
 
Now that the EPA has issued its final regulations for its Clean Power Plan (CPP), all of the interested parties, in and out of government, are spending hours and hours and hours reading through the 1560 page document. If the final CPP weren't so long, one could say parse like a lawyer instead of simply read. While the final Clean Power Plan was meant to clarify how of the nation's electrical grid will be governed, it has several things that can be quibbled with besides its sheer length. Ultimately, the thorniest issue is the question of the constitutional right of the EPA, or for that matter any federal agency, to impose federal mandates on the electrical grid where none existed before. That said, the fact that 16 states, a full third of the 48 states effected, have asked the EPA to voluntarily stay implementation of the final CPP regulations until the constitutional litigation is over is profound.

In addition, there are several flaws in the details of the final EPA plan. First, the EPA has given no guidance as to what changes it has made to the CPP to derive its final form; second, the medical evidence supporting the indirect health benefits remains scanty; third, the choices of computational methodologies underpinning the whole plan are still very opaque and seemingly arbitrary; fourth, the final rules are very divisive as they pit many groups, states and regions against each other; and finally, because the legal justification for Clean Power Plan remains unresolved, it has and will create a massive financial and jurisdictional uncertainty.

Certainly, it is understandable that many people and groups have been frustrated by the lack of a concrete national energy plan, which makes them more receptive to any federal entity finally attempting to bring order to the chaos of the "cooperative federalism," which includes a large and diverse groups of interests and responsibilities. The problem is that the electrical grid as it is has evolved into a remarkably complex organism including tens of trillions of dollars in assets and millions of often highly trained individuals each doing their job according to state and federal mandates, market forces, current regulation and economical development.

That said, one can't help wondering why the EPA didn't provide a primer that included all of the major changes it made from the June 2, 2014 proposal as compared to the finished plan of August 3, 2015, because as Brian Potts put it, "Virtually everything is different." Highlighting the changes certainly would have added more transparency to a very complex new document.

In particular, the EPA should provide a more direct and detailed explanation of the indirect health benefits it continues to cite. In fact, it might be interesting for the EPA to provide statistical information on the number of asthma attacks, premature deaths and other related negative human effects, since June 2, 2014. Or, the EPA might document the indirect health harm done while waiting for implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

There is an old saying that "if one tortures the facts long enough, they will confess to anything." In other words, why did the EPA change their various models, theories and numbers to derive its new plan? Are all of the computations comprised of cherry picking information or is there a deeper set of facts and information that infused the plan's methodology.

Of all the problems embedded in the CPP, the most serious one is that it creates a divisiveness on almost every level. It pits commercial interests against each other, it pits states who benefit from the plan against states who are harmed, it pits utilities, large or small, against each other according to their fleet of electrical power sources, it pits renewable resources like wind and solar, and even non-emitting nuclear against each other for funding, it pits one region of the country against the other regions of the country, it pits state utility commissions against each other, it pits industrial energy efficiency against residential energy efficiency and finally it pits states that have cap and trade emission schemes against those that don't (and probably subtly creates a national cap and trade system without legislative mandate).

Then, there is the matter of uncertainty that the EPA's Clean Power Plan has cast over the entire electrical grid financial market. To make matters worse, the investment money so necessary for funding and financing new electrical grid investments can not be made before the Supreme Courts rules on the legality of the CPP. As has happened before, states and businesses will not be reimbursed for any money spent, if the CPP is declared illegal.

There is so much at stake for the continuing economic development of the states, the regions and the United States. It seems like a modest request from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming to stay the implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan until all of the legal issues are finally settled.

Certainly, the impressive progress made on greenhouse gas reductions in the 2005-2014 period and the "glide path" the electrical grid is already on without EPA mandates should count. In the interest of national unity, political fairness and economic development, the EPA should honor the modest request of the 16 effected States.

 
 
Authored By:
Stephen Heins, aka “The Blizzard of One,” is an energy consultant and nationally-published writer who has gained some attention for his expertise in energy, federal regulations, environmental and broadband policy issues.Heins promotes economic development, energy efficiency and emission reductions at the local, state and national levels. He has published more than 70 articles and op-ed pieces on energy, energy policy, utility industry and environmental issues for newspapers, energy and trade
 

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Comments

September, 01 2015

John Wilson says

And certainly climate change itself creates divisiveness, in that it pits those who benefit from continuing business as usual against those who will be harmed by continuing delay in taking action. I suppose we should commission a study to see if there will be harm due to continuing to delay action.

September, 02 2015

Stephen Heins says

John,

I can't tell if you are being serious or not.

As for a new study, it will likely confess to anything the sponsors want. Without full disclosure of all parties involved the study, it will just be another brick in the agitprop wall, whether denier, lukwarmer or alarmist. The whole process of third party review of any scientific study is broken and funding bias is everywhere.

With so many more immediate threats and so little real medical evidence to support the EPA's claim of indirect health benefits" in the U.S., the disadvantaged will not likely be disadvantaged by a legal delay of the Clean Power Plan, especially with ongoing emission reductions without the implementation of the CPP.

Given how regressive any electric rate increase is, I can't imagine why a delay will be very costly to the electrical grid and its rate payers.

September, 03 2015

Richard Vesel says

John, is of course, being facetious. The CPP is not being put in place to really create any quick and direct health benefits, in contrast to HAAPP, MATS, CASPR, etc. The CPP is the USA's first major piece of legislation, as a nation, to address our enormous output of greenhouse gases, which primarily come from the power generation sector. (Transportation sector output is being addressed by CAFE standards, which you will note are not being challenged by industry or states!)

Each and every American averages to 17 metric tonne output of CO2. The disadvantages of waiting can be argued ad nauseum, and the "I'm not a scientist" crowd would happily argue to have their "interests" protected because THEY will not be the ones to suffer the consequences of inaction. 99% of people will not address an issue that does not affect them personally, until a large clear crisis threatens them. So, we rely on government to stir action out of apathy and inaction. This debate has gone on a full 20 years, and with the effects of climate disruption (not merely ambiguous "change") becoming clearer and clearer every year, the do-nothings still are trying to run the show, using specious political arguments and pseudo-scientific nonsense to delay a necessary response.

I'm pleased to see the CPP out in its final form, and I hope that it endures a relatively short gauntlet of legal challenges, all of which will be tossed out by the courts.

My own comments on the CPP and how to make it more practical for industry were made before the EPA during the comment period in July of 2014, and can be seen beginning at time 49:30 at the following link. I am glad to see that the final version of the CPP incorporated much of what I was hoping for in my remarks.

http://www.c-span.org/person/?richardvesel

RWV

September, 03 2015

Stephen Heins says

Richard,

A couple of thoughts:

1. The utility industry and state regulators have hardly been "do-nothing" and their greenhouse gas reduction record over the last decade is proof; 2. You never really addressed any of my arguments in the piece; 3. You do do a lot of name calling, which is never an argument, e.g. "specious, pseudo-science, merely ambiguous 'change;" 4. You seem to be saying that any federal set of regulations, no matter how poorly written, is better than nothing; 5. With the momentum of conversion of coal to natural gas power plants already in motion without federal dictate, the additional benefits seem quite small; 6. Your persistent angry tone doesn't do much for a dispassionate discussion; 7. You dismiss the "quick and direct benefits" argument without noticing that the huge health benefits claimed by the EPA were a very important part of the EPA's rationale for the new regulation; 8. Actually, the Sierra Club and NRDC input were probably more influential than your comments; 9. Your sense of moral rectitude and intellectual superiority can be very distracting and neither trait is very appealing.

Steve

September, 04 2015

Richard Vesel says

1 - The do-nothings are the entrenched fossil-fired utility and coal-mining interests, who spend millions lobbying state and federal EPA's, and millions more in the courts trying to block beneficial environmental regulations in order to "do nothing" more than to protect their income streams. That is their well-paid-for "right", as they live on the right, but it doesn't make them right.

2,3 - The use of the description "unconstitutional" is SPECIOUS, as it has been rejected countless times regarding federal environmental regulations in the past, and the Supreme Court has already decided that CO2/GHG is within the purview of the EPA to regulate.

4 - You seem to be claiming that the CPP is poorly written, after actually having been out for comment for half a year, the EPA considered 4.3M comments, and altered the final to be more accommodating and flexible than the original. So your use of "poorly" is highly subjective, and my own opinion, is totally incorrect. The courts will determine which of the two of us is correct. Get back to me in two years.

5 - That momentum, which I have been an active proponent of as well, has been price driven, not just from a fuel standpoint, but from an operations and construction standpoint as well. GT/CCGT technology and plentiful cheap natural gas has given us a bridge to a low carbon future. Time to cross the bridge!

6 - My controlled and persistent "angry tone" is a result of not having much tolerance left for crank political bashing of and resistance to absolutely necessary steps to get the USA and eventually the globe out of the habit of massive fossil-sourced CO2 dumping into the atmosphere. All efforts to wrap this resistance in the flag, couch it in terms of "freedom", deny it with pseudo-science, or downplay it as an unsettled matter leave me with no choice but to address it in the strongest possible way. And that includes calling out the perpetrators of nonsense when I see their shoes.

7 - The EPA's purported rationale is a side-benefit of further restricting the use of coal. The main thrust is GHG reduction, which so far has failed to yield to any simplistic $-cost-benefit analysis. Climate disruption is a crisis-in-the-making, similar to but far worse than the smog-related and water pollution crisis that begat the CAA, CWA and EPA in the first place. Time to stop using the atmosphere as a CO2 dump!

8 - I wasn't claiming to be influential, you just read that in. I said I was happy to see that what I was hoping for was included. There were 4.3M comments to the proposed CPP after all.

9 - I don't care what is appealing or not. What I care about is an honest approach to the law and the truth, not self-serving conservative nonsense. So there's some more moral rectitude and intellectual superiority for you to digest. Thanks for the encouragement!

RWV

September, 04 2015

Stephen Heins says

Richard,

There are so many things that we don't see eye to eye about. Of course, there is a constitutional issue involved, whether you see it or not. Of course, the 2600 page (including footnotes and references) Clean Power Plan is a twice baked hodge-podge affair with federal overreach issues in the use of 111d for legal justification and a denseness of bureaucratic language that will take decades of litigation to clarify. Your confidence in the EPA's ability to regulate U.S. waterway and the electrical gri, besides fuels, seems misguided to me.

I can't help noticing that you never did really address the particular arguments in my piece. Maybe, you should write a piece that delineates your arguments?

I suspect that you will need to have the last word, so this will be my last commication with you.

Best, Steve

September, 10 2015

Richard Vesel says

I directly contest your claim that the EPA has given no guidance as to how they changed the CPP to achieve its final form. That claim is either a blatant attempt to "prevaricate", or it is ignorant, due to a lack of simple research. The summary of how the CPP was modified from proposal to final form is first contained within the plan itself (such as the explanation of why the whole of Block 4 was removed), why the energy efficiency targets of 4-6% were reduced to 2.1-4%, etc. But you have to exercise your eyeballs and brain, and READ to find these things. Amplifying uninformed opinion with additional nonsense seems to be what you are all about here.

For further explanations and guidance from the EPA, see the following:

http://www.epa.gov/airquality/cpp/cps-final-rule.pdf

Start at page 12 and just keep reading...

In terms of the rest of your claims in your second paragraph:

You might just ASK the EPA for the background on the full set of claims made here:

http://www.epa.gov/airquality/cpp/fs-cpp-by-the-numbers.pdf

As a government agency, they have an obligation to provide whatever you ask for, and if they don't, you can file for a Freedom of Information Act disclosure.

Divisive - oh it certainly is. It divides those who see this as "hodge-podge" and "overreach" from those who see it as an absolutely necessary step in parallel with transportation directives reducing CO2 emissions via automotive CAFE standards. Yes, it divides the entrenched interest do-nothings from the people who are trying to prevent further climate disruption due to unencumbered dumping of billions of tons of GHG's into the atmosphere annually. That's billions with a "B". And just from the US power generation sector alone.

Total global dumping is nearing 35Gt annually. Atmospheric CO2 levels will end the year above 400ppm, with about 0.5% growth from last year.

http://www.itekenergy.com/global-co2-emissions-from-energy-sector-stalled-in-2014/

Finally, I don't need to write an article. I see a better role as a critic and debunker of nonsense. There's a lot more opportunity for that. Yes, with each fresh load of nonsense, I will indeed attempt to get the last word in.

Best, RWV

September, 22 2015

Stephen Heins says

Richard,

I have waited a week to read your response. It makes me more dispassionate and articulate.

One of your great skills is name calling and another one is your unwillingness to put your complete thoughts to paper. OK, you work for a large international corporation and I am a singular voice form the Midwest.

I attended the House Hearing last week on the Colorado Toxic Spill, where Secretay McCarthy exhibited almost no knowledge of what her agency was doing during after the Colorado event. It was embarrassing. You want the EPA t take control of the U.S. waterways and electrical grid with 14,000 bureaucratic policy wonks in Wash DC. Honestly, I think that you are well-meaning, but wrong.

It would be an improvement if you sounded less shrill and doctrinaire. Oh, you might pay more attention to global erergy realities and the real environmental killers better known as poverty. 4 million people in poor countries died last year from the effects of wood burning/dung in the their own houses.

I would welcome a personal discussion with you about the several things on which we disagree.

Steve

October, 14 2015

Richard Vesel says

Your flaws are as follows:

- You accuse me of "want the EPA to take control of the US waterways and electrical grid with 14,000 bureaucratic policy wonks". Hmmmm - I dare say that is a FABRICATION, and you will not be able to find one single quote from me which you can put here to back up that crazed assertion. Prevarication, to say the least. Choose your words more carefully when making any claims about what you think I seem to want.

- You claim I am unwilling to put my complete thoughts to paper. If you spent a few minutes, you would find that my comments in this forum are: voluminous, complete, contain valid references, historically correct assertions, and FACTS. All that in contrast to the absolute nonsense and opinion which you pass off as authoritative commentary. Oh, and I have published here in the distant past as well.

Looking around the web for your qualifications, I can only find that you are trying to promote yourself as a shill to entrenched fossil-energy interests. You might contrast that to my own publications and other activities which are easily found using the same search techniques.

Finally, you are a poor master of the typical rhetorical techniques used by people who have no real leg to stand on: those being diversion and distraction. You attempt to place blame on your opponent for the very flaws which are patently obvious in your own work. I accept none of it.

Your articles, to date, have been nothing but unverfiable hyperbole, exaggeration, and rife with unscientificrightwing political nonsense. I would find little less interesting than having a personal discussion with you about any topic, energy or otherwise, for those very reasons.

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