Supreme Court rules against EPA

The Supreme Court in late June told the EPA it had to consider the cost of implementing its 2012 Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS). Justice Antonin Scalia said that in drafting the 2012 rule the EPA “gave cost no thought at all, because it considered cost irrelevant to its initial ­decision to regulate.”

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jo Ann Emerson said, “America’s electric co-ops are pleased the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA should have considered cost as one factor when deter­mining whether regulating mercury emissions was ­appropriate. Today’s ruling is a victory for a balanced approach to regulating the utility sector, one of the drivers of our nation’s economy.”

However, the ruling comes too late to stop the closure of many coal-fired generating plants across the country. Only a few dozen coal plants are still operating without mercury controls. The majority have either paid the high cost to upgrade pollution controls or closed.

Some have said that just introducing the regulation forced expensive modifications and premature power plant closures — meaning increased rates for consumers and thousands of lost jobs. Others argued the EPA and the Obama Administration must now quickly propose revised safeguards that restore at least the same level of protections.

A bigger issue is the question of whether or not this will impact the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Final rules are set to be announced this month. One thing is for sure – there will be more legal challenges.

A recent study by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) raised yet another big ­question — will we be able to meet energy demand given EPA’s Clean Power Plan timeline?

NRECA’s CEO Emerson said a new assessment by the nation’s grid watchdog backs up concerns electric ­cooperatives have raised about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

“This study from the regulatory authority charged with ensuring electric reliability bolsters arguments made by electric co-ops and others that the EPA’s interim deadlines are, quite simply, not workable,” Emerson said.

The NERC report says additional transmission and natural gas infrastructure would not be in service in time necessary to meet EPA’s proposed emissions limits on the power sector.

Under the NERC analysis, about 43 gigawatts of ­generation would be retired in state cases and another 41 GW in regional cases, between 2016 and 2020, to meet the rule’s interim deadline for carbon dioxide reductions of 80 percent.

“NERC’s modeling, however, shows that the generation and transmission additions necessary to fulfill the capacity requirements would not be completed until 2031, at the earliest,” Emerson said.