June 13, 2024
EEI Sues EPA over Power Plant Rules’ Carbon-capture Requirement

The Edison Electric Institute has joined the litigation against EPA’s power plant rules under Clean Air Act Section 111, filing its own petition to review the rules and intervening in existing suits. 

The agency had already been sued over the rules by a group of states and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the latter of which has asked the court to stay implementation of the rule. (See Republican-led States Sue EPA over Power Plant Emissions Rule.) 

The rules imposed stricter emissions limits on existing coal plants and new natural gas plants. They identified carbon capture and storage as the best system of emission reduction (BSER) under the CAA. Coal plants intending to operate past 2039 will have until Jan. 1, 2032, to cut their emissions to a level based on a presumption that they will install a CCS system capable of capturing 90% of their emissions. (See EPA Power Plant Rules Squeeze Coal Plants; Existing Gas Plants Exempt.) 

EEI CEO Dan Brouillette said in a statement that the investor-owned utility trade group still supports EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the CAA but opposes the use of CCS as the BSER. 

“We are intervening today to preserve our ability to defend, if needed, elements of the final 111 rules that are consistent with the ongoing clean energy transition and that do not create reliability impacts for customers,” Brouillette said. “At the same time, we are seeking judicial review of the agency’s determination that carbon capture and storage should be the basis for compliance with other portions of the 111 rules. EPA’s record and the docket do not support the agency’s finding that CCS is adequately demonstrated for broad deployment across our industry.” 

CCS is an emerging technology, and the rule’s implementation timelines do not align with its commercial reality, Brouillette said. No power plants are operating today that would meet the agency’s requirements for CCS. 

“Throughout the rulemaking process, we repeatedly raised concerns that CCS is not yet ready for full-scale, industrywide deployment, nor is there sufficient time to permit, finance and build the infrastructure needed for compliance by 2032,” he added. 

EEI said its members are investing in CCS and other technologies that can deliver power around the clock and without emissions, but it cannot bet the future on a technology that is not ready for industrywide deployment. 

The utility group’s concerns about CCS are not unique, with SPP and PJM both recently saying the technology was not ready. (See related story, SPP Shares Concerns over EPA’s GHG Rule.) 

In a statement this month, PJM noted that EPA had responded to concerns it brought up in joint comments filed with SPP, ERCOT and MISO before the rules came out, making some helpful improvements. However, the final rules’ reliance on CCS was still a concern. 

“The availability of CCS is highly dependent on local topology, such as salt caverns available to sequester carbon and the availability of a pipeline infrastructure to transport carbon emissions from individual generating plants to CCS sites potentially hundreds of miles away,” PJM said. “There is very little evidence, other than some limited CSS projects, that this technology and associated transportation infrastructure would be widely available throughout the country in time to meet the compliance deadlines under the [rules].” 

Advanced Energy United put out a statement urging the broader electricity industry against litigation in response to EEI’s petition for review. 

“With the Inflation Reduction Act at our backs, and clean energy the most affordable and reliable choice, it’s time for all of us to lean into the energy transition,” said CEO Heather O’Neill. “Dragging our feet and betting against America’s technological innovation will only drive up utility bills for consumers. The most cost-effective way to power our electric grid is by scaling up the use of the proven, clean and reliable technologies we already have.” 

Technologies like wind, solar, energy storage, geothermal, demand flexibility and efficiency are proven, clean alternatives to fossil-fueled power plants, United said. 

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