By Victor Skinner
(The Center Square) – If the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t withdraw its Clean Power Plan 2.0, “our country will face a crisis in electricity supply that will dwarf the regional outages that we have seen in California, Texas, and New England in recent years,” according to more than three dozen U.S. senators.
In a recent letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, 39 senators including North Carolina Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and Ted Budd spelled out their objections to the EPA plan proposed in May to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants for the first time.
The signatories were led by Wyoming Republican Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The letter says the plan violates the Clean Air Act by imposing carbon capture technologies that have not been “adequately demonstrated,” and would require fuel switching in conflict with the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA.
That ruling struck down the initial Clean Power Plan, pushed by the Obama administration in 2015, to set limits on carbon from power plants, finding the EPA lacked authority to implement the plan without congressional approval.
The proposed Clean Power Plan 2.0 would require coal and natural gas plants to “co-fire” with 30% clean hydrogen in 2032 and ramp up to 96% by 2038, and to operate carbon capture technology with a 90% carbon dioxide capture rate by 2030.
“This proposed rule will drastically increase costs and reduce electricity supplies,” senators wrote. “These effects will not only be borne by the regulated community, but by every American, manufacturer, and small business that relies on the electricity grid.”
The plan, coupled with the EPA’s Electric Generating Unit Strategy, is “a way to shutter fossil-fuel power plants and bolster President Biden’s climate goals,” senators wrote.
The Biden administration aims to create a 100% “clean electrical grid” by 2035 and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The North Carolina Utilities Commission adopted a plan last year as required by the General Assembly to reduce carbon emissions 70% from 2005 levels by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
About 60% of the country’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, with about 22% from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In North Carolina, 37% comes from natural gas, 39% from nuclear, 5% from coal, and more than 18% from renewables.
“The EPA has again grossly misinterpreted the scope of authority Congress granted under … the Clean Air Act by proposing a rule that would require generation shifting and transform our nation’s power sector with neither a clear and explicit congressional authorization nor adequate process as required under the Administrative Procedure Act,” the senators wrote.
The letter notes “fundamental flaws” in the proposal rely on claims about the future availability of emissions control technologies “that are still nascent and have not yet been adequately demonstrated.”
Hearings in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this summer featured testimony by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Willie Phillips that he’s “extremely concerned when it comes to the pace of (fossil fuel plant) retirements that we are seeing of generators that we need for reliability on our system.” Similar concerns with a “reliability crisis” were echoed by officials with the North American Electric Reliability Corp., Regional Transmission Organization PJM, and others about government actions driving premature retirement of fossil fuel energy plants.
The letter did not include what actions, if any, the senators might pursue if the EPA refuses to halt the plan. Capito wrote in an editorial Monday she expects “the U.S. Supreme Court will stand firm, and again remind the EPA who is boss.”
Tillis’ offices did not return messages from The Center Square seeking comment.
The letter to Regan included all Senate Republicans but 10 and no Democrats. Republicans that did not sign on include Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and John Cornyn of Texas.
Victor Skinner is a contributor to The Center Square.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.