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U.S. National Debt:

Power Plant Rule Is All Pain And No Gain

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed mandate to severely limit power plants emissions were heard loud and clear when I met directly with Idahoans recently in a series of town hall meetings.  The proposed rule threatens to impose significant, unnecessary costs on Idaho consumers while doing little to improve the environment.  Implementing a diversified energy plan that reduces environmental risks while improving domestic energy production is a far better course of action.     

The central pillar of President Obama's carbon emissions reduction plan, largely focused on using the President's executive authority to bypass Congress, tasks the EPA with issuing regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from future and current power sources.  Earlier this year, the EPA published its proposed regulations seeking to achieve a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to 2005 levels, by the year 2030.  The proposed rule mandates that states develop plans to meet emissions reduction targets that would total the nationwide 30 percent reduction goal.  The EPA intends to finalize the rule by June 2015.  Following that timeline, states would be required to submit their emissions reduction plans by June 2016.  

Our state, which is one of the lowest carbon dioxide emitters and top producers of renewable energy in the country, is tasked with coming up with a plan to reduce already low carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 32 percent.  Additionally, as Idaho receives a portion of its electricity needs from coal-fired power plants in neighboring states, costs associated with meeting emissions reduction targets in other states could be passed on to Idaho ratepayers.  In an October 2014 economic analysisfrom NERA Economic Consulting, Idaho is among 43 states that will have double digit electricity price increases, and compliance costs are estimated at $366 to $469 billion over the next 15 years.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), tasked by Congress with assessing the reliability of North America's power system, recently cautionedthat the implementation timeline of the EPA's proposed reductions creates power reliability challenges that could result in "wide-scale, uncontrolled outages."  NERC reported, "The proposed timeline does not provide enough time to develop sufficient resources to ensure continued reliable operation of the electric grid by 2020."      

The claimed benefits of this rule do not outweigh its costs.  According to the American Coalition For Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) "Climate Effects Paper," June 2, 2014, the proposed regulations are only expected to result in a less than 0.5 percent reduction of carbon dioxide concentrations and a reduction of 0.016 degree in the global average temperature rise.  Further, ACCCE indicates that sea level rise will be reduced by the thickness of three sheets of paper.  None of this will affect China and others' continued increased emissions. 

Protecting and improving our environment is an objective shared by many, but EPA regulations must be grounded in science, protect our quality of life and provide the greatest benefit to both the environment and people without harming our economy.  The climate change proposals issued by President Obama, however, will likely have serious economic consequences while yielding few environmental benefits if fully implemented.  The Administration's proposals threaten the utilization of our own traditional, affordable energy sources and increase the cost of electricity. 

America must pursuean "all of the above" approach, which should include a robust expansion of nuclear energy production, hydroelectric power, and other promising renewable and emissions reducing technologies.  By expanding and diversifying our energy portfolio, we can reduce risks to the environment, promote a strong domestic energy sector and increase our energy security.

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