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ADEQ: Clean Power Plan Final Rule Improvement Over Draft

3 min read

Arkansas is in better shape under the federal Clean Power Plan final rule than it was under the plan’s draft, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh said Monday.

Keogh and Arkansas Public Service Commission Chairman Ted Thomas met with media Monday to address the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency final rule and its effects on Arkansas. The rule went into effect earlier this month and mandates carbon emission reductions at U.S. power plants by 2030.

Keogh said the EPA was willing to work with the state, and its final plan extends some deadlines for compliance and provides other relief. The state went from being “at the tip of the spear to somewhere in the middle,” Thomas said. 

In response to public comments, Keogh said the federal agency adjusted some targeted baseline requirements. 

A stakeholder meeting hosted by the ADEQ and PSC is scheduled for Oct. 9 to further discuss the plan and the state’s implementation of it. 

Under the controversial Clean Power Plan’s draft, Arkansas would’ve been required to reduce its carbon emissions by 44 percent by 2030. The final rule changed the requirement to 36 percent. It also delayed by two years, from 2020 to 2022, the start of the compliance period. States remain required to attain their final carbon-emissions goals by 2030.

To meet the required 2030 goals, Arkansas must reduce carbon emissions by 27 percent, which places it in the middle of the pack in terms of all states. Montana, for example, would have to reduce emissions by 44 percent to meet federal guidelines while eight states currently meet them.

Thomas said he was relieved by the “less stringent” requirements of the final plan. Both he and Keogh commended the EPA for taking into account concerns over the plan’s draft that were included in public comments. 

“We stayed engaged with the EPA and just didn’t say, ‘No,'” Thomas said. “I think that helped.”

The final plan is based on three “building blocks”: improved efficiency at coal-fired plants; shifting generation from coal-fired to natural gas plants; and sifting generation to zero-emitting renewables.

Arkansas is facing the following deadlines for submission of its state plan:

  • Arkansas must submit a final plan or an initial plan with an extension request for submission of its final plan by Sept. 6, 2016. An extension would give it until Sept. 6, 2018, to submit a final plan. Arkansas can submit its own plan or join a multi-state plan.
  • If Arkansas chooses an extension, it must file a progress report by Sept. 6, 2017.
  • States that fail to submit an approvable plan by the deadline will be subject to a proposed federal default plan for which the EPA currently is taking comments.

Arkansas was set to reduce carbon emissions by 12.8 percent by 2020 regardless of the Clean Power Plan, Keogh said. She said the October stakeholders meeting will attempt to determine the state’s best path forward, how the federal plan will impact the environment and the power grid, and how it will affect ratepayers.

Critics of the federal plan say it will burden ratepayers while having negligible impact on the environment. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in response to the EPA’s final plan announcement earlier this month, said the state would continue to fight the final rule but also work with industries and consumers to “determine a lowest-cost option to compliance.”

On Monday, Keogh said the state would continue to pursue all its political, legal and compliance avenues.

“Litigation will be pursued but we’ll prepare to file our state plan by the deadline too,” Keogh said.

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