The Obama Administration has made it official—the federal government is requiring the nation’s power plants to reduce emissions by nearly one-third over the next 15 years.
So where does this leave coal-reliant Missouri?
“Safety, reliability, low cost power—those are the keys to our business; to being successful and to providing the best products to our customers,” said Trey Davis, president of the Missouri Energy Development Association. “Every one of those is brought into question with the Clean Power Plan.”
Under the Clean Power Plan, released on August 3, the EPA is requiring existing power plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent.
Each state has a different goal to meet. Missouri is called to reduce emissions to 1,272 pounds per megawatt-hour, a more stringent goal than the EPA had originally proposed. Currently, Missouri power plants emit 2,008 pounds per megawatt hour, according to the EPA’s 2012 measurement.
To reach Missouri’s goal, the state must consider a variety of options, including whether to transition some of Missouri’s power generation away from coal power in favor of other types of power plants.
Just days before the Clean Power Plan was released, stakeholders gathered at the Lake of the Ozarks for the annual Environment and Energy Conference hosted by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
During the conference’s opening panel discussion, national energy expert Dan Byers criticized the rule as being costly yet potentially ineffective at addressing a global problem.
“This rule here in the U.S. is really just a drop in the bucket,” said Byers, senior director for policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. “If it’s completely successful by 2030, it will reduce global emissions by less than 2 percent. That’s equivalent to about three weeks of emissions from China.”
Byers said President Obama intends to use the new rule to encourage other countries to also reduce their emissions during an international climate meeting in December. However, Byers argued that there was no guarantee that other countries would make a good-faith effort to reduce their emissions.
Byers also said states should consider whether coming legal challenges could upend the Clean Power Plan well before 2030. A group of 16 states have already requested that the EPA delay the Clean Power Plan.
In Missouri, the state’s diverse group of power generators—investor-owned companies, municipalities and co-ops—have all been participating in discussions with state regulators about what carbon reduction strategies Missouri should pursue.
Environmental Quality Director Leanne Tippett Mosby said tackling the Clean Power Plan has been a significant new undertaking for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
“We are well outside our traditional regulatory role that we have been used to,” she said.
Tippett Mosby said Missouri is also participating in discussions with other states to possibly create a joint effort to reduce emissions, a scenario allowed under the Clean Power Plan.
However, Byers suggested that instead of strategizing to meet the Clean Power Plan, Missouri may be better off doing nothing. He said that when a state submits its plan to the federal government, the plan could open up the state to more lawsuits from environmental advocacy groups.
Yet, Davis argued Missouri is better off being proactive.
“I think the best opportunity, if this plan were to move forward, lies within the State of Missouri versus relying on the federal government to institute a federal implementation plan,” he said.
For more information about environment and energy issues, contact Brian Bunten, Missouri Chamber general counsel and director of legislative affairs, at email@example.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.