Affordable Clean Energy Rule Offers Flexibility, Certainty Sought by Electric Cooperatives

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to reduce carbon from existing power sources provides greater clarity and flexibility for electric cooperatives to meet these goals, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) said in comments filed today with the agency.

“EPA has proposed a replacement to the Clean Power Plan that provides electric cooperatives and others with a more flexible approach that can reduce the cost of those measures to our member-consumers,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said. “Our comments also outline improvements that EPA should make to ensure that the new regulation meets those goals.

“Electric cooperatives have invested billions of dollars in power plant development so that they can provide affordable, reliable power for consumer-members and businesses that contribute to the prosperity of their communities. The proposed ACE rule would provide long-term certainty for these investments even as cooperatives diversify their energy portfolios and respond to emerging technology, market conditions and consumer demand.”

The proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule will provide states much-needed clarity and flexibility to tailor the requirements that make sense for each regulated source. NRECA said in its comments that EPA must adhere to its proposal to regulate “within the fence line” of a facility by allowing states to make a unit-by-unit assessment of what additional steps are required.

This approach is especially important to electric co-ops, which built much of their electric generation after a 1978 law directed electric utilities to build coal-fueled power plants, therefore preserving natural gas for other uses. Coal power plants account for 61 percent of co-op-owned electric generation, and it’s important that the ACE rule not force the premature closure of those facilities as the Clean Power Plan would have done.

Electric cooperatives also support EPA’s effort to reform New Source Review permitting requirements, which otherwise could be a serious obstacle to meeting the requirements of the proposed ACE rule. Revision of the NSR program is long overdue and is a linchpin of the success of this new regulation.

“NRECA supports and appreciates EPA’s long-overdue efforts to revise its New Source Review regulations so that they do not unfairly penalize those who comply with the ACE rule or otherwise disincentivize precisely the sort of efficiency-improving projects…that industry otherwise would undertake,” NRECA said in its comments.

Electric cooperatives generally support EPA’s timeline for implementing the proposed regulation, but requested a 36-month period for compliance with state or federal plans, with additional flexibility depending on power plant outage schedules.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.