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environmental regulations

At a webinar last week, “A Fresh Outlook on the Clean Power Plan,” Synapse’s Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton hosted Senior Associate Sarah Jackson and Harvard Law’s Kate Konschnik for a discussion of the current outlook for the Clean Power Plan and what efforts toward decarbonization are still happening in the United States.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission denied last week the application of Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) to spend $1.1 billion on new capital projects—primarily coal plant retrofits to comply with federal environmental standards. The Commission’s decision casts the future of the 1,100 megawatt Sooner Generating Station into doubt.

At the beginning of this month, the EPA set a new national standard for ozone, nudging the maximum allowable concentration down from 75 to 70 parts per billion (ppb). Industry backlash to the ozone standard continues a long tradition of opposing regulation on the grounds that it is too expensive, despite almost 20 years of rebuttal that shows that estimated costs of federal regulations are overblown.

The recent Supreme Court ruling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard generated dramatic headlines in the media, but a closer look shows an outcome that is less earth-shaking and more pedantic.

Clean Power Plan Planning Tool (CP3T): A walkthrough of Synapse’s free tool for state compliance

Register today for a free webinar with Synapse’s Patrick Knight, CP3T developer

Date: Friday, November 21, 2014

Time: 1:00 – 1:45 p.m. EST

Register for Webinar: Click here

When the Clean Power Plan was announced in June 2014, EPA issued proposed carbon reduction goals using a rate approach (pounds of CO2 per MWh of electricity generation), but indicated that states would have the option to convert these rate-based targets to mass-based targets (pounds of CO2). Yesterday, EPA released further guidance on how states might translate the rate-based goals to mass-based equivalents.

Will potential new EPA ozone restrictions have devastating effects on the U.S. economy? That’s the claim made by a recent NERA Economic Consulting study. Cautioning media outlets to think and write critically about such claims, Media Matters for America published an article citing experts—including Synapse senior economist Frank Ackerman—who enumerated the methodological faults of the study.

On February 27, Bruce Biewald, Synapse founder and CEO, testified at a House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on “Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century: Electricity.” Mr. Biewald spoke about the practice of estimating a future CO2 price in electric utility planning, which is becoming increasingly common in the United States. 

Bruce Biewald

Planning for the future price of emitting one ton of carbon dioxide can seem like a game of chance, in which electric utilities and other stakeholders are forced to bet on uncertainties. However, considering state and regional policies that are already in play—as well as proposed federal legislation aimed at reducing emissions—it would be a bigger gamble for utilities to assume that there will be a CO2 price of zero in the long run.