A stakeholder conference call held by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Wednesday indicates that consensus is building around a mass-based compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency rule calls for Arkansas to reduce power plant carbon emissions 36 percent by the year 2030. The nationwide target is a 32 percent reduction.
“The focus of this series of calls is we want to hear your opinions on these items for comment,” said the ADEQ's Tricia Jackson, who led the conference call. Wednesday's topic was the Federal Plan Structure. The call lasted about 34 minutes.
Ken Smith with the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, which advocates for renewable energy and better efficiency standard, emphasized during the call that the mass-based approach is likely best.
“Our feeling is that the mass-based approach would give and provide the sufficient flexibility and it also provides the simplicity,” he said.
A mass-based approach lets regulators assess the total amount of carbon emitted from all state power plants. The other option is a rate-based approach. It measures pounds of carbon emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. The AAEA's position on a mass-based method was supported by Anna Weeks of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Brian Bond of the Southwestern Electric Power Company, or SWEPCO. They were some of the about half-a-dozen stakeholders to voice comments during the call.
Both the mass-based and rate-based methods are to be discussed in detail in upcoming conference calls.
Curtis Warner of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas questioned why the federal model of implementation does not require a “reliability safety valve” to guarantee a working electric grid in case of disruptions.
“I don't see that we lose anything by asking and I don't see why EPA wouldn't want it there. But their position is, they feel there are a sufficient number of allowances to address any issues. But, who knows when the next Hurricance Sandy or something might hit,” Warner said.
The EPA does allow for a reliability safety valve under state-devised plans, Warner noted. Under that system, power plants would be able to temporarily exceed carbon emissions standards if a catastrophic event were to affect grid reliability.
The next Stakeholder conference call takes place Wednesday, December 9th. A public comment period on the Clean Power Plan ends on January 21st. The state must submit its own compliance plan or express intent to adhere to a federal model by next September.
Opposition in Congress
As the stakeholders weighed the various options in meeting the Clean Power rule, Arkansas's delegation to the U.S House of Representatives gave their approval to a resolution opposing it. The resolution passed 242 to 180 Wednesday. All four Republican congressmen from the state voted for it.
The resolution had previously passed in the U.S. Senate, where both Arkansas Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman voted for it. The measure passed alongside a similar one opposing new emissions standards at recently built power plants.