comtech

March 2017

Dustin Tripp

EPA

There’s no question that the United States Presidential Election of 2016 will be remembered for many years to come.  President Donald Trump was elected and was sworn into office on January 20, 2017.  Over the past few years, I have been informing you about proposed rules issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that could potentially have a significant impact on your cooperative in the future.  In this article, I would like to provide a brief history of the new rules, update members regarding the status of litigation surrounding these new rules and how the Trump Administration will likely impact the outcome of the new rules.

On August 3rd, 2015, the U.S. EPA released the final version of the Clean Power Plan, which consisted of over 1,500 pages aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing and new power generation facilities.  The final rule calls for a 32% national average reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030.  The final rule is significantly different than the proposed rule and is much more stringent for Illinois than the proposed rule.  The final rule calls for a 44% reduction in Illinois greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030.  This is a very complex rule and is one of the most aggressive and controversial regulations in our nation’s history.

As soon as the rule was published in the Federal Register, it became the most litigated environmental regulation ever and it will likely conclude with a decision in the Supreme Court.  Twenty seven states and numerous industry groups filed cases against the new rules.  These lawsuits have been consolidated and will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

On January 21, 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied petitions to stay the rules during the course of this litigation.  This stay in the rules would have halted the implementation of the rules until the legality of the new rules had been determined by the courts.  In the meantime, the states that have filed the lawsuits attempted a very rare legal process and asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to issue a stay (freeze) in the new rules during the litigation process of the U.S. Court of Appeals.   On February 9, 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court granted the motion to stay the Clean Power Plan while it is being challenged in court.  This was an unprecedented move by the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay while the case is being heard by the federal appeals court and many believe this was an early sign that the rule may be met with a skeptical reception by the U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, consisting of ten judges, heard oral arguments for the case on September 27, 2016.  At the time this article is being written, the court has not issued its decision but many believe the decision could be announced very soon.

Once the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a decision on the new rules, regardless of the decision made, it is pretty certain that the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court for a decision.  On January 31, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch as the next Supreme Court Justice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.  Assuming this nomination to the Supreme Court is confirmed, many believe this appointment to the Supreme Court may ultimately tip the balance of the Supreme Court to strike down the new rules.  It is likely that we will not know the ultimate decision regarding the legality of the new rules until sometime in 2018 as it makes its way thru the Supreme Court.

Coal has proven to be the most abundant, reliable and economical fuel to generate electricity in the United States.  Over the past, the industry has proven that coal can be used to produce more electricity, more efficiently, while reducing emissions.  Since 1970, coal used for electricity has increased approximately 170 percent while key emissions have decreased 90 percent per unit of power produced.  Advances in coal technologies deployed at the Marion plant and new plants installed with state-of-the-art technologies like Prairie State Generation Campus continue to improve efficiencies and reduce emissions.

 

Your Cooperative’s power supplier has made significant investments in coal-fired generation and in emission control equipment to utilize coal in an environmentally responsible way.  Your Cooperative’s power supplier utilizes a diversified portfolio of electricity generation including coal, natural gas, hydro and wind power.  Your Cooperative has long promoted a variety of energy efficiency measures to benefit Cooperative members.  However, the vast majority of your Cooperative’s power production (like that in many other Midwestern states) remains coal-fired.

 

See you next month and as always, "We'll keep the lights on for you."