October 28, 2014 / 7:46 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. EPA seeks more input on sweeping power plant rule

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators said on Tuesday they wanted more input on elements of a sweeping plan to reduce pollution from power plants and about the role natural gas can play to achieve emissions cuts.

The John Amos coal-fired power plant is seen behind a home in Poca, West Virginia May 18, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The Environmental Protection Agency identified areas of concern raised by “multiple stakeholders” since it unveiled its proposals in June, and hopes to get additional input before its public comment period ends on Dec. 1.

The plan called for the U.S. power sector to slash carbon emissions from 2005 levels. Each state was given a specificgoal and asked to craft a compliance strategy.

EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe told reporters that the agency wanted to encourage states to offer comment on those specific issues and other concerns that were not specifically addressed in the agency’s proposal.

“We wanted to address issues where the feedback we were getting went beyond what we laid out in the preamble (of the Clean Power Plan),” McCabe said.

Potential changes to any of the issues addressed in its notice could change the stringency of the emission reduction goals in the final rule, which is expected to be completed by next June, she said.

An issue the EPA wants additional comment on is its “interim goal” from 2020 to 2029 that states must meet on average to reduce their emissions.

The EPA said the intent of that goal was to give states a “glide path” toward their final emission reduction goal by 2030.

The EPA also asked stakeholders to comment on the “building blocks” it used in its proposal that the agency identified as making up the best system for reducing carbon, which helped it set individual targets for each state.

The EPA invited comments on the assumptions it used on how efficiently coal-fired power plants could be converted to run on natural gas. Some states worry the shift will be difficult to achieve and forces the early retirement of coal plants that have made major upgrades.

But some argue that natural gas can play an even bigger role in driving emission reductions.

“This is an opportunity to show the EPA that the regulation can be more stringent and that natural gas can displace even more coal,” said Conrad Schneider, advocacy director at the Clean Air Task Force.

The EPA is also asking states to weigh in on how it set state-specific emission reduction goals, amid concerns about the formula it used to calculate each goal and the base year it chose, 2012, against which to reduce emissions.

States in the northeastern United States contend they would be penalized because they lowered emissions before 2012.

“We have already made this transition to natural gas that the rest of the country is currently experiencing,” said David Littell, commissioner of the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

McCabe said the EPA has also included emissions data for the years 2010 and 2011 for comment so stakeholders can see “how more than one year can affect the proposed target.”

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Ros Krasny, Sandra Maler, Peter Cooney and Ken Wills

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