Statement by NRECA CEO Jim Matheson on Clean Power Plan Oral Arguments

(ARLINGTON, Va.) — National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jim Matheson today issued the following statement about what’s at stake for America’s electric co-ops in the Clean Power Plan case, to be argued tomorrow before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Supreme Court heard us, as will the D.C. Circuit

“NRECA and thirty-nine generation and transmission cooperatives petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the Clean Power Plan, because the final rule exceeds EPA’s authority. And as our counsel will argue before the D.C. Circuit, the final rule is so different from the agency’s original proposal that it violates EPA’s legal obligation to provide adequate notice of, and opportunity for public comment on, the rulemaking, among other flaws.

“When we asked the Supreme Court to stay the Clean Power Plan, the court took the extraordinary step of halting the rule in its tracks until the litigation played out. The justices’ decision was every bit as unprecedented as the Clean Power Plan itself and an indication of serious flaws in the rule. We’re confident we will prevail on the merits as well.

Co-ops hit especially hard by EPA legal overreach

 “America’s electric co-ops have a lot riding on how the Clean Power Plan litigation plays out, because the rule hits not-for-profit, consumer-owned electricity providers and their members especially hard. Instead of crafting sensible regulations to address power plant carbon emissions, EPA issued a rule that would significantly restructure the power sector, far exceeding its legal authority and burdening electric co-ops with a disproportionate share of the costs.

“The rule would force many co-ops to prematurely shutter coal-fired power plants on which they’re still repaying loans. Members of those co-ops would be charged twice for their electricity—once to continue paying down the loans on assets that are no longer generating revenue, and again for the cost of purchasing replacement power from somewhere else.

Low-income consumers at risk

“We’re especially concerned about the burden on low-income families. Electric cooperatives serve 93 percent of the nation’s persistent poverty counties, so we recognize first-hand the importance of affordable power. And unlike investor-owned utilities, co-ops don’t have shareholders or excess revenues to help offset the rule’s costs—those costs are borne entirely by their consumer-members.

We were told to build coal, and did

“Ironically, many of the co-op facilities threatened by the Clean Power Plan were built during a period when Presidents Ford and Carter and Congress told co-ops and other utilities to build coal-fired power plants. In fact, the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978 essentially placed natural gas, one of the fuels of choice today, off limits. The Act was implemented just as co-ops needed to build more generation to meet growing demands.

We’re pursuing renewables, efficiency to benefit members

“That said, co-ops are investing heavily in renewables and energy efficiency. More than 95 percent of co-ops provide electricity generated by renewable energy resources. We currently own or purchase about 17 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity and have plans to add nearly 2 gigawatts more.

“We have 195 megawatts of solar capacity online, more than 470 megawatts on the drawing board and lead the sector in community solar. And 82 percent of electric co-ops offer members some type of energy efficiency program, many of which include rebates for efficient appliances and other incentives. Co-ops also lead in community storage, which can help integrate renewables into the electricity grid.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.