EPA Seeks to Reassure on Grid Reliability

SPRINGERVILLE, AZ - JUNE 09: Power lines are seen as an out-of-control wildfire threatens the electrical grid in the area on June 9, 2011 in Springerville, Arizona. The Wallow Fire is threatening transmission lines that provide power to hundreds of thousands of customers in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The fire, covering over 600 square miles, has forced thousands to evacuate. 
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Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
March 6, 2014, 12:35 p.m.

HOU­S­TON — En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy sought to as­sure en­ergy ex­ec­ut­ives on Thursday that EPA won’t shut off the lights in the name of bat­tling cli­mate change.

Mc­Carthy, in a speech be­fore a big en­ergy con­fer­ence here, said EPA’s up­com­ing rule to set car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards for power plants will cut pol­lu­tion without jeop­ard­iz­ing sup­plies.

“EPA is not go­ing to threaten en­ergy re­li­ab­il­ity,” Mc­Carthy said at the IHS CER­AWeek con­fer­ence, call­ing it a pri­or­ity.

EPA plans to is­sue draft cli­mate-change reg­u­la­tions for the na­tion’s ex­ist­ing power plants in June.

Mc­Carthy said EPA’s goal is to help spur a clean­er power sys­tem while re­cog­niz­ing the im­port­ant role of fossil fuels.

“Con­ven­tion­al fuels like coal and nat­ur­al gas are go­ing to play a crit­ic­al role in a di­verse U.S. en­ergy mix for years to come. This rule will not change that. It will re­cog­nize that,” she said.

Agency crit­ics have ar­gued that the rules, com­bined with oth­er EPA pol­lu­tion man­dates, will ef­fect­ively force power com­pan­ies to re­tire enough coal-fired power plants that power re­li­ab­il­ity will be jeop­ard­ized.

They have poin­ted to the heavy en­ergy de­mand when the in­vad­ing po­lar vor­tex sent tem­per­at­ures plunging in Janu­ary.

But Mc­Carthy said the agency has been con­duct­ing ex­tens­ive out­reach with oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies as well as the power in­dustry.

Cheryl LaFleur, the act­ing chair­wo­man of the Fed­er­al En­ergy Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion, told Na­tion­al Journ­al that she has met with Mc­Carthy about the power-plant rule and grid re­li­ab­il­ity.

“It is something I know she is … quite com­mit­ted to,” LaFleur said of grid re­li­ab­il­ity.

“It will re­quire a lot of co­ordin­a­tion as the rule gets fi­nal­ized and im­ple­men­ted to un­der­stand its im­pact on the grid,” she ad­ded.

Mc­Carthy, in a speech Thursday, made a broad pitch for the EPA rules and the White House cli­mate agenda, ur­ging the audi­ence to “seize this as an eco­nom­ic op­por­tun­ity to drive a healthy, sus­tain­able, and more pros­per­ous fu­ture for all of us.”

She said that for dec­ades the Clean Air Act has suc­cess­fully driv­en down pol­lu­tion without stifling eco­nom­ic growth, and that there’s no reas­on to be­lieve that can’t con­tin­ue with cli­mate reg­u­la­tions.

Mc­Carthy said the rules would provide states with plenty of flex­ib­il­ity.

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