EPA defends planned rules over power concerns
EPA would be 'sensitive' on reliability issues as it developed rules for power companies.
Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 05:51 PM
Photo: ZUMA Press
The Obama administration is defending its plans to crack down on industrial pollution after a report from a utility group found proposed regulations may result in tighter U.S. power supplies.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp released a study on Tuesday that found four possible Environmental Protection Agency rules could "accelerate the retirement of a significant number of fossil fuel-fired power plants."
Utilities may have to replace or make efficiency gains for up to 70 gigawatts, or about 7 percent, of U.S. power generation by 2015, the study said.
The EPA disputed those findings on Wednesday, saying the report by the industry group relied on faulty assumptions.
"By NERC's own admission, its projections about electricity supply impacts rest on its own fortune-telling about future regulations that have not even been proposed yet," EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said in a statement.
Gilfillan said the EPA would be "sensitive" on reliability issues as it developed rules.
The two rules that NERC said would have the most impact on utilities — cooling-water intake structures and pollution from power plants — have not been officially unveiled by the EPA.
NERC, a self-regulating group that enforces reliability standards, said its study was not attacking EPA regulations, but instead was noting issues that the industry and EPA would have to consider to ensure the grid remained reliable.
"It shows that work needs to be done," said John Moura, a technical analyst for NERC. "Industry needs prompt action to replace that capacity that is going to be lost."
In addition to utilities working to increase capacity, the EPA will need to consider the timelines for regulations to protect grid reliability, Moura said.
Industry groups have raised alarms about possible harm caused by stringent EPA pollution rules.
The NERC study does not assess how EPA regulation of greenhouse gases would affect power supply.
NERC's report does not include all planned EPA regulations, Scott Segal, executive director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said in a statement. "Once those are included the impacts on reliability will be far greater."
NERC's findings about capacity lost from retiring power plants are not surprising, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff said in a statement.
"This has been common knowledge for months now, and the administration and the industry have been discussing these matters and how to mitigate their potential effects," he said.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)
Copyright 2010 Reuters Environmental Online Report