Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bipartisan Senate Proposal To Delay CSAPR & Utility MACT

Nov 9: Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Dan Coats (R-IN) introduced the bipartisan "Fair Compliance Act" (S.1833) which they say would create "reasonable timelines and benchmarks" for utilities to comply with two major U.S. EPA rules "to protect jobs and keep utility rates stable." The legislation would extend the compliance deadline for the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) [See WIMS 11/8/11] by three years and the deadline for the Utility MACT rule by two years – so that both would fall on January 1, 2017. Both the CSAPR and Utility MACT are also subject to modification and delays under the House approved H.R. 2401 -- the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011 (TRAIN Act) [See WIMS 9/23/11]. Additional cosponsors include Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). The Utility MACT rule requires a decrease in mercury emissions at power plants. The CSAPR requires utilities to reduce power plant emissions that may cause air-quality complications in neighboring states.

    Senator Manchin said, "I've always said government should be your partner, not your adversary -- and that's not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, it's a common sense idea. With millions of jobs on the line in this country -- and especially in my state of West Virginia -- it just makes sense to work to make sure we don't lose any more jobs in putting these rules in place. I'm proud to bring together Republicans and Democrats on this commonsense solution to a real problem."

    Senator Coats said, "The current EPA rules and unreasonable deadlines will be devastating for Hoosiers and every ratepayer in America. After visiting with Indiana utilities and power plants, it is clear that the current EPA timeline will result in more job loss and skyrocketing rates. While I support a complete overturn of these rules, this bill is a bipartisan commonsense solution that gives states and utilities the time needed to plan and prepare."

    According to a release from the Senators, S.1833 bill would provide utilities with an extension of time and synchronize the implementation schedule for complying with the rules. The bill would extend the date of compliance for Utility MACT by two years and for CSAPR by three years changing the deadline for both rules to January 1, 2017.  Under the current EPA rules, the compliance date for Utility MACT is January 1, 2015. The deadline for Phase I of the CSAPR is January 1, 2012 and Phase II is January 1, 2014. The Manchin-Coats bill would postpone Phase I until January 1, 2015 and Phase II of CSAPR until January 1, 2017. The compliance date is the date by which a utility either must have installed emissions controls or retired the pant. The bill also would require utilities to submit implementation plans to ensure compliance occurs. To safeguard the reliability of the electric grid and avoid brownouts, utilities would need to submit their implementation plans to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). [Note: On October 6 EPA signed a proposed rule that would make significant changes in CSAPR [See WIMS 10/7/11].

    In a fact sheet from Senator Manchin he emphasizes that the "proposal does not reduce existing authority under the Clean Air Act, nor does it relax the standards under any existing or proposed Clean Air Act regulations." The fact sheet indicates, "The proposed Utility MACT and finalized Cross-State Air Pollution Rules pose a major challenge for utilities to comply by the deadline. This legislation would give utilities a reasonable, responsible timeframe to make the necessary investments that would help them meet the requirements of the proposed regulations. The proposed Utility MACT regulation would require coal-fired plants to achieve a 91 percent reduction of mercury and other emissions, and the Cross-State Air Pollution rule would impose caps on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that drift across borders. While the Utility MACT and Cross-State Air Pollution rules address different problems, both would require utilities to make substantial investments in similar equipment. This legislation would streamline the compliance timelines for these two rules, creating one timeline for industry to meet the requirements of both regulations. The bill would extend the compliance schedule on the Utility MACT and Cross-State Air Pollution rules by two years and three years, respectively."
    In a release from the nonprofit, public interest law firm Earthjustice, Stephanie Maddin, Associate Legislative Counsel said, "The Manchin-Coats bill amounts to a terrible trade: the health of our children and thousands of American lives for the surplus profit of already rich corporate polluters who want to avoid complying with life-saving clean air standards. We deserve more than that, and poll after poll has demonstrated that the public expects better leadership from their elected representatives. The EPA estimated that cleaning up these dirty power plants will be a net job creator. Beyond that, the American economy is far less productive when workers are sick. Cleaning up coal- and oil-fired power plants will lead to a healthier workforce and stimulate the American pollution control industry. Contrary to what the sponsors of this bill and their corporate backers might say, now is precisely the time to adopt clean air standards for power plants. The money that industry will spend to clean up -- miniscule compared to the economic benefits that society will derive -- will very likely have a positive impact by kickstarting our stalled economy. Promoting pollution isn't a jobs plan, it's an assault on the public's health that is simply unacceptable."
    Access a release from the Senators (click here). Access a 2-page fact sheet on the S.1833 (click here). Access legislative details for S.1833 (click here). Access EPA's website for CSAPR for complete details and background (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). [#Air]