By Jeryl L. Olson and Craig B. Simonsen

In a letter this week to Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, a coalition of business organizations provides initial feedback to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its proposed carbon emissions regulations for existing electric generating units.

The National Association of Manufacturers serves as co-chair of the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, which comprises more than 160 members as well as state and local associations in 36 different states representing more than 80 percent of the U.S. economy.

The Partnership and its member organizations continue to review EPA’s proposal, but they believe that it will be disruptive to and is fundamentally incompatible with numerous practical and technical aspects of America’s electricity system. In fact, the letter suggests that EPA’s proposed rule could “eliminate the critical competitive advantage that affordable and reliable electricity provides to the American economy.”

In the letter the Partnership highlights five “high-level issues” that are representative of its detailed objections to EPA’s proposal:

  1. Electricity price increases and economic impacts. While EPA’s proposal must be thoroughly and independently analyzed to better understand its costs and electricity market implications, it is clear that the rule presents a significant threat to American jobs and the economy. EPA itself estimates that its rule will increase electricity prices between 6 and 7 percent nationally in 2020, and up to 12 percent in some locations.
  2. Rule structure and scope. EPA is pursuing a regulatory standard on one industry source (fossil-fuel power plants) based on potential actions taken well beyond the source’s physical location and controlling authority, and in many cases by entities that are not directly subject to regulation under section 111 of the Clean Air Act.
  3. Technological achievability. EPA has asserted that each of the individual building block targets assigned to states are based on “reasonably achievable rather than maximum performance levels.” However, “EPA is basing enormously impactful mandates on technology assumptions that have yet to be demonstrated as achievable at a reasonable cost and in some cases achievable at any cost.”
  4. Follow-on regulations. EPA’s regulations on power plants are only the first step of the Administration’s broader greenhouse gas regulatory agenda. As the agency has committed to a suite of follow-on rules, “many Partnership member organizations will be impacted twice—both as electricity customers and also as industries ‘next in line’ for subsequent rules that EPA has committed to pursuing.”
  5. Process and timeline. States and stakeholders continue to struggle to interpret and react to the rule’s more than 1,600 pages of highly technical materials. Despite this ongoing confusion, the agency has scheduled public hearings in only four locations [and beginning next week!], and has provided few if any opportunities for stakeholders and other interested parties to publicly ask the agency direct questions regarding the design and potential impacts of its rule.

The Partnership has requested, in response to its issues, that the Agency hold additional public hearings on the rule in order to enable a greater number of citizens and stakeholders representing a broader range of viewpoints and geographic locations to provide input on the rule. More importantly, it asks that some component of the public meetings be interactive, so that impacted stakeholders can ask EPA direct questions regarding the intent and implications of its proposed rule. Also, the Partnership asks that EPA extend the comment period by at least 60 days to ensure that affected stakeholders have sufficient time to assess the rule and consider feedback provided at the public hearings.

At this time, the EPA will accept public comments on the Plan until October 16, 2014. The Agency currently intends to hold four public hearings across the country during the week of July 28, 2014. The President had directed EPA to issue the final rule by June 2015.