EPA admitted — then erased — risk of blackouts associated with new utility rule

posted at 6:05 pm on November 14, 2011 by Tina Korbe

The Environmental Protection Agency has long maintained that a new proposed utility rule to reduce mercury and other emissions won’t affect the reliability of the nation’s power grid — but Congressional and industry investigators have found that an early draft of the rule that circulated within the administration included a section that acknowledged the rule might negatively impact reliability, the WSJ reports.

It’s obvious to those who’ve examined the rule at any length that it’s designed to close coal-fired power plants, and, given the prevalence of such plants, it’s easy to infer that a rule to eliminate them would risk blackouts — but supporters of the rule brand anybody who opposes it an abettor of pollution and an accomplice of the industry.

As the WSJ explains, this newly discovered admission by the EPA itself that blackouts are a possible consequence of the rule gives the lie to that characterization:

In a “What are the energy impacts?” section, the EPA concedes that it “is aware that concerns have been expressed by some, even in advance of this proposed rule, that this regulation may detrimentally impact the reliability of the electric grid.” The agency admits that what it calls “sources integral to reliable operation” may be forced to shut down—those would be the coal-fired plants the EPA is targeting—and that these retirements “could result in localized reliability problems.” The EPA insists that it knows how to balance “both clean air and electric reliability,” but all along in public it has denied that reliability is in any way at risk. …

But here’s the kicker: This reliability section was gone when the EPA released its utility rule proposal in May 2011. Why did it vanish? Where did it go?

This matters because the draft report contradicts EPA leaders who have publicly portrayed anyone worried about reliability as an industry shill. More importantly, as a technical and legal matter, issues that are excluded from the Federal Register mean that the public is denied the opportunity to meaningfully comment on them.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson clearly doesn’t want anyone to comment on the reliability issue — not even the EPA. Not only did the agency scrub the reliability section from the proposed rule, but it has also given the White House regulatory office insufficient time to examine the rule, which the EPA plans to finalize by mid-December. The EPA has also repeatedly ignored letters from Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that ask whether the new regulation will jeopardize grid dependability.

Undaunted, Inhofe and Murkowski have tried yet again, sending a letter to Jackson to ask why the EPA eliminated the reliability section from the rule and also to request the EPA not impair electric reliability and affordability. All bets are against a reply from Jackson.

This rule is one of the most expensive ever proposed by the EPA: According to some estimates, it will cost $184 billion and up to 1.4 million jobs. Coal might be “dirty,” but, at present, the U.S. relies on it heavily. Eliminating it will increase energy costs at a time when the nation just can’t afford it. At least 25 state attorneys general have begged the EPA to delay this rule by at least a year. The EPA would do neither itself nor the energy industry any harm by heeding that request.

Incidentally, this story also underscores the need to ensure congressional oversight of regulations. The REINS Act is the best bill on the table to do just that.

Update: This story originally mistakenly stated the EPA plans to finalize the rule by mid-September instead of mid-December. The post has been corrected above.


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Why does this make me think of Pol Pot’s “Year Zero”? Consequences be damned … a totally agrarian society … what a wonderful idea! “I did what I thought was best”. A society without carbon-based fuels … what a wonderful idea!

Paul-Cincy on November 14, 2011 at 6:10 PM

Well, Obama did say his administration would be transparent.

Skandia Recluse on November 14, 2011 at 6:10 PM

This is so stupid, so we close our coal plants, drastically reducing the price of coal (MASSIVE drop in demand). Other countries seize the opportunity for a cheap energy source massively increasing their usage of coal. In the end emissions are exactly the same (if not worse).

clement on November 14, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Energy rates must necessarily skyrocket…

Ordinary1 on November 14, 2011 at 6:11 PM

I have said and continue to say the epa is the most evil agency we have here in the US. If this agency isn’t stopped, cratered, or de-funded, our nation is gone. BTW, bho is the epa a million times times plus with his eo and cratering our nation!
L

letget on November 14, 2011 at 6:13 PM

That’s what the delete button is for. To eliminate stuff.

a capella on November 14, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Pardon my cynicism but control of the EPA ain’t happening when we just had six weak sisters in the senate take a big nasty dump on us with the their voting against legislation last week that was at least a start.

arnold ziffel on November 14, 2011 at 6:15 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency has long maintained that a new proposed utility rule to reduce mercury and other emissions

Is that one that forces everyone to use lightbulbs with Mercury in them?

trubble on November 14, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Shades of the Soviet Union.

rbj on November 14, 2011 at 6:19 PM

When does the Little Red Book come out?

We’ve got traitors and fools running this country.

hillbillyjim on November 14, 2011 at 6:26 PM

The kicker is that we’ve got the same idiotic government pushing electric cars any hybrids down our throats.

SMART.

hillbillyjim on November 14, 2011 at 6:27 PM

These people are hell-bent on dragging us back to the dark ages.

(And by “these people,” I mean most on the left.)

I never understood why those on the left want to destroy us. Finally, I decided on the theory that they think we are took big, too good, too bad, too prosperous, altogether too much of everything good – and we need to be taken down a peg.

Certainly the president seems determined to take us down more than one peg. (Not to mention, he’s constantly calling us names and apologizing to other countries for us.)

So why would so many of us think we need to be taken down a peg or sixteen? I mean, after, all, they are us, too.

I don’t know why. But I do know the left won’t be happy until we are taken down.

Everything up is down. If we are so intent on ruining ourselves, then I guess it will just have to be.

Alana on November 14, 2011 at 6:31 PM

Shades of the Soviet Union.

rbj on November 14, 2011 at 6:19 PM

When does the Little Red Book come out?

We’ve got traitors and fools running this country.

hillbillyjim on November 14, 2011 at 6:26 PM

From an O’bama Supporter on the SCOTUS healthcare thread:

I think you must be exaggerating if you think that Obama’s policies are going to get rid of the entire free market. I guess it depends what you mean by “Obama’s variation of socialism” and “anything left of a free-market.” Assuming you’re not greatly exaggerating, which is hard to believe, then yes, of course there will be a very free market left even if every one of Obama’s policies are enacted. Specifically, the stock market, international trade, the ability to start and grow a business, freedom of contract, the ability to buy and sell products in a competitive market, etc. will all be left even in the most dramatic version of what you might think Obama’s policies are.

If you’re asking whether Obama wants to increase regulation in certain areas of business, like the power of unions and environmental regulations, and whether he would ultimately prefer a single-payer health system, then yes, I agree that he wants that. But I don’t think it would leave nothing of the free market behind.

tneloms on November 14, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Del Dolemonte on November 14, 2011 at 6:35 PM

Obama is the worst President of the United States in the last 100+ years.

albill on November 14, 2011 at 6:35 PM

About the REINS Act

The REINS Act would require that Congress take an up-or-down vote on every new major rule (more than $100 million annual economic impact) before it could be enforced on the American people and businesses.

How can any rational citizen of any political persuasion think this is a bad idea?

visions on November 14, 2011 at 6:35 PM

At least 25 state attorneys general have begged the EPA to delay this rule by at least a year. The EPA would do neither itself nor the energy industry any harm by heeding that request.

That’s all anybody ever does anymore, is beg. But they will do what they want. They ignore the law, ignore letters, ignore subpoenas. They do whatever they want, and the rest of us can like it or lump it, I suppose.

(Yeah, I’m getting depressed about all of this.)

Alana on November 14, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Del Dolemonte on November 14, 2011 at 6:35 PM

That poster is an embarrassment from way back.

hillbillyjim on November 14, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Incidentally, this story also underscores the need to ensure congressional oversight of regulations. The REINS Act is the best bill on the table to do just that.

Alternatively they could, you know, JUST DO THEIR DAMN JOBS!

jdkchem on November 14, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Alana on November 14, 2011 at 6:31 PM

If you want to try to understand the Left then I suggest this Thomas Sowell trilogy. He explains pretty much everything:

A Conflict of Visions

The Vision of the Annointed


The Quest for Cosmic Justice

visions on November 14, 2011 at 6:41 PM

I say that ANY federal agency which continues to act AGAINST the will of the people should be shut down.

The EPA is now a worse enemy of the USA than Al Qaeda ever was!!

landlines on November 14, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Liberal Democrat social engineering…

… works wonders every time it is tried.

/

Seven Percent Solution on November 14, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Well Barry did say things would have to CHANGE.

Better get out the candles.

GarandFan on November 14, 2011 at 7:04 PM

You think OWS is bad? Wait’ll gubmint action starts turning out the lights…

Get a population genuinely angry at government interference? This will be the riots-in-the-streets excuse that the administration has been waiting for. Massive civil unreast? Well, best “postpone” the 2012 elections until things settle down a bit.

Peyton on November 14, 2011 at 7:10 PM

jdkchem on November 14, 2011 at 6:39 PM

You forget congress authorized all these regulatory agencies. They did it so they couldn’t be held responsible for the regulations they wanted but didn’t have the stones to go on record voting for.

chemman on November 14, 2011 at 7:11 PM

A couple of blackouts would be helpful in focusing the the attention of the electorate.

Little Boomer on November 14, 2011 at 7:12 PM

Why can’t congress put a stop to some of this nonsense? How does one man, or one agency, have so much power?

bopbottle on November 14, 2011 at 7:14 PM

the simple reason that the left does these things is that they think that they will be on top afterwards. This is all about power and money. CA for example uses little coal.

You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet…so yes, some things will have to be sacrificed.

And by the time the rolling brownouts are regular business, everyone will have forgotten why…there will be a new crisis…a new Charlie Sheen to distract people.

r keller on November 14, 2011 at 7:18 PM

(Yeah, I’m getting depressed about all of this.)

Alana on November 14, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Yeah, it’s become very hard to stop buying ammo, silver, and food.

Who is John Galt on November 14, 2011 at 7:18 PM

Yeah it will really be great once all the new cars are running on coal too. You know, like the Volt and the Leaf.

Because electricity comes from a plug in the wall; so it is really a clean energy.

Lily on November 14, 2011 at 7:32 PM

At least 25 state attorneys general have begged the EPA to delay this rule by at least a year.

Begged? That’s the best they can do. Sue the arse off Jackson and the EPA until they are begging you to quit. Either that, or set the starting dollar amount for the EPA budget at $0. The GOP need to grow a pair.

TulsAmerican on November 14, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Even we did have the REINS act, all the EPA would do is revise down the numbers to $99M, and voila, problem solved.

JFS61 on November 14, 2011 at 8:09 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_bombardment

Cuffy Meigs on November 14, 2011 at 7:28 PM

Sad, but true. Occupy DC!

Who is John Galt on November 14, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Even we did have the REINS act, all the EPA would do is revise down the numbers to $99M, and voila, problem solved.

JFS61 on November 14, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Er, I meant ^this. But the other, also.

Who is John Galt on November 14, 2011 at 8:21 PM

A couple of blackouts would be helpful in focusing the the attention of the electorate.

Little Boomer on November 14, 2011 at 7:12 PM

That’s what I instantly thought.
But I think it will take much more than that. Like total govt collapse.
The electorate is full of stupidity & needs total chaos to ensue before they do anything meaningful about all of this utter insanity.

Badger40 on November 14, 2011 at 8:23 PM

Sounds like any governor with balls will just defy the federal government, and let SCOTUS deal with it.

“So the EPA rules require the shutdown of power plants in my state? So what. By executive order, I’m ordering the plants in [INSERT STATE NAME HERE] to stay online.”

If you get 30-35 states to do that, even ol’ Ginsberg will have to take into consideration that the governed don’t like the way they’re being governed.

Was it Kagan or Sotomayor that said “…..decisions should reflect the will of the people..” or something like that?

BobMbx on November 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM

A couple of blackouts would be helpful in focusing the the attention of the electorate.

Little Boomer on November 14, 2011 at 7:12 PM

That’s what I instantly thought.
But I think it will take much more than that. Like total govt collapse.
The electorate is full of stupidity & needs total chaos to ensue before they do anything meaningful about all of this utter insanity.

Badger40 on November 14, 2011 at 8:23 PM

All the electorate will do is demand more government intervention, rules, regulations, rationing, and so on and so forth. They do it when they’re not panicking; they surely will when they are.

Alana on November 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM

Between not authorizing the XL Pipeline and this EPA Regulation one might conclude the Obama Administration is actively bringing this country to its knees.

RADIOONE on November 15, 2011 at 6:38 AM

All the electorate will do is demand more government intervention, rules, regulations, rationing, and so on and so forth. They do it when they’re not panicking; they surely will when they are.

Alana on November 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM

Now witness the power of my fully-functional EPA-star. Save us, Obama-One Kenobi. You’re our only hope.

SKYFOX on November 15, 2011 at 7:30 AM

It’s time congress start holding these agencies in contempt.

sadatoni on November 15, 2011 at 9:03 AM

The harm inflicted by this new “rule” against mercury pollution is dwarfed by the even greater harm inflicted by the “rule” requiring Best Available Control Technology for carbon dioxide, which affects gas-fired as well as coal-fired power plants.

The only difference is the timing. The CO2 rule was decreed in April 2010, which stopped applications for new permits dead, but previously permitted plants were allowed to continue running…UNTIL THEIR PERMITS EXPIRE. Most power plants need to have their permits renewed every 5 years, meaning that previously permitted plants will be shutting down gradually due to the CO2 rule between now and 2015. Between April 2010 and November 2012, about half of the power plants will have come up for permit review, and if we lose half of the gas- and coal-fired power plants, THERE WILL BE BLACKOUTS BEFORE THE ELECTION.

The power outages caused by the recent early snowstorm and Hurricane Irene are only a preview of things to come from Hurricane Lisa [Jackson]…

Steve Z on November 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM