PJM state officials discuss possible carbon rule coordination

By Jeffrey Tomich | 10/13/2015 07:00 AM EDT

Following the lead of states throughout the Midwest and other regions, counterparts in the Mid-Atlantic have been talking in recent months about ways they could work together to facilitate compliance with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

State environmental and utility regulators from Illinois, Michigan and most of the other 14 states in PJM Interconnection LLC, a regional transmission operator, have been talking since June about the carbon rule and potential for multi-state cooperation.

The informal group is similar to the Midcontinent States Environmental and Energy Regulators (MSEER), which began holding calls and in-person meetings about a 1 ½ years ago (EnergyWire, Dec. 3, 2014). Like MSEER, the mission of the PJM state regulators is to understand the rule and potential for cooperation.


Also like MSEER, state officials participate under a "no regrets" approach, meaning there’s no commitment required and states can walk away at any time. The commitment-free nature of the meetings is key given the political rancor caused by the rule.

"People come and they participate to varying degrees," said Doug Scott, vice president of strategic initiatives at the St. Paul, Minn.-based Great Plains Institute. "Whatever works for them is fine. Our goal is, ‘Here’s what the rule is, here’s our best efforts of trying to explain it and explain what the options are for the states,’ and let the states make the decisions of what makes most sense for them."

PJM’s grid covers part of far southwest Michigan. The rest of the state is part of another regional grid — the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). The chairman of the state’s Public Service Commission, John Quackenbush, has been part of the MSEER meetings and said it became apparent that PJM states could benefit by talking in the same way as other regional groups (EnergyWire, April 1).

"It seemed like a hole in the country that hadn’t been addressed," he said during an interview at the Midwest Energy Policy Conference in St. Louis.

PJM’s effort in many ways is a parallel to MSEER, with plans to do some modeling of the Clean Power Plan. A key difference is that many of the PJM states have competitive retail electric markets while MISO is mostly vertically integrated, Quackenbush said.

Scott, who was chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission until last year, was part of the MSEER steering committee as a regulator. He has continued his work with the Midwest group and the PJM states in his new role at Great Plains, which is helping provide technical support along with Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

"Almost all" PJM states are taking part in discussions at some level, Scott said. He declined to specify which states were not.

Besides Illinois and Michigan, PJM covers all or part of Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Several of the states are among those who are part of a federal lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan.

Some states participating in the PJM group also belong to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system among nine Northeastern states.

"There’s nothing in the final rule that would preclude a RGGI state from trading with a non-RGGI state," Scott said.