As states weigh their options on how to comply with U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan, a new tool released this week seeks to simplify the wide range of choices facing stakeholders. On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire reporter Emily Holden discusses the "menu of options" released by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. She also talks about the Energy Information Administration's new analysis of cost, reliability and infrastructure challenges that could result from power plan implementation.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. As states weigh their options on how to comply with EPA's Clean Power Plan, a new tool released this week seeks to clarify the range of choices facing stakeholders. ClimateWire's Emily Holden is here with all the details on the latest Clean Power Plan developments. Emily, this tool was released by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. It's comprehensive. What exactly is it offering to the states?
Emily Holden: Well, this group represents 41 states and more than 100 localities, and it's really supposed to be a tool for those members and also for anyone else who's looking at trying to reduce carbon emissions. It is called sort of a menu or an encyclopedia, and that's exactly what it is. It's hundreds of pages long. It has extensive research on all sorts of carbon-cutting options, everything from things you might not think about like using higher-quality coal to making efficiency improvements to electric lines so that you lose less electricity in the transportation process. And while EPA has welcomed this work that the group has done, they have said -- they have not actually come out and said that this is something they could endorse all of the options in.
Monica Trauzzi: As you point out in your reporting, there's no cost comparison in NACAA's release. And cost is a key element of the debate that we see going on on the Clean Power Plan. So does that open the door then for the Just Say No camp to invalidate what NACAA's done?
Emily Holden: Right. Well, the report actually does consider cost to some extent, but it doesn't put them into a chart so regulators can pick and choose what might be the least expensive options. And NACAA has said that it wanted to remain agnostic because every state is different and it doesn't want to tell them what mix they should choose. There are so many things that they have to consider in writing plans. But at least one industry group, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, has come out and said, "This isn't really moving the ball forward because it doesn't help states figure out how to advance these options without increasing electricity cost or causing potential grid problems," you know, potential power outages.
Monica Trauzzi: And you've reported that the majority of states -- it seems the majority of states are working on some kind of plan or thinking about how they might comply. Looking into multistate plans, does this seem like what most states are pointing towards at this point?
Emily Holden: Well, we have reported that at least 41 states are having discussions with one -- at least one other state, many of them many more states -- about what they could do under the Clean Power Plan. It's really the early stage, though, so they're talking more about what the options are and making sure they're understanding the rule the same way. A lot of the research that states have been looking at is focused less on how states could submit plans together as a group to EPA and more on how they could trade on carbon-cutting options, or how they could trade renewable energy efforts or trade energy efficiency.
Monica Trauzzi: And this morning E&E reported on an Energy Information Administration analysis pointing to cost, reliability and infrastructure challenges relating to the Clean Power Plan. Is this a hit for EPA?
Emily Holden: Well, the report shows that coal retirements would more than double under the Clean Power Plan, and a lot of that would happen before 2020 when the rule begins. So a lot of critics have said that that is exactly what could cause reliability problems. They say that that rapid shift could really be a little too much for the grid to handle. At the same time, EIA says the modeling we used is not supposed to be used to assess reliability; that's not what we want this report to be. And there are also just too many factors to consider. We haven't seen the final rule yet. We don't know how states might implement it.
Monica Trauzzi: How is this report sort of fueling the political debate on the power plan?
Emily Holden: Well, it's a little too soon to tell. Our story just came out this morning. But EIA is well-respected, both in the industry and on the Hill, so it's definitely going to be a talking point.
Monica Trauzzi: Yeah, we'll be watching this and continuing to report on it. Thank you for coming on the show.
Emily Holden: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
[End of Audio]