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EPA continues ancillary work amid stay; Millennium coal terminal project gets EIS after delays

Q2: U.S. Solar and Wind Power by the Numbers

Essential Energy Insights - September 17, 2020

Essential Energy Insights September 2020

Rate case activity slips, COVID-19 proceedings remain at the forefront in August


EPA continues ancillary work amid stay; Millennium coal terminal project gets EIS after delays

Amidcalls to halt all work on the now-stayed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. EPA isadvancing a related early incentive program designed to development of renewable and energyefficiency projects in the years prior to the carbon rule's implementation.

Buta new report from the New York University School of Law's Institute for PolicyIntegrity says those calling for a tolling of all the Clean Power Plan'sdeadlines are confusing a stay with an injunction. One of the report's authors,Richard Revesz, NYU Lawrence King professor of law and dean emeritus, said theEPA is operating well within the bounds of the stay in advancing the CleanEnergy Incentive Program, an ancillary program proposed on the same day theClean Power Plan was released.

TheEPA on April 26 sent the CEIP to the Office of Management and Budget for 90days of review before publication in the Federal Register. "There's noreason why EPA shouldn't move forward with" the CEIP, said Revesz, who isalso director of the Institute for Policy Integrity. He said those calling forall work on the Clean Power Plan to halt are "misreading" theintentions of the Supreme Court.

Aftera number of delays,the Washington state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County, Wash., releaseda draft environmental impact statement for the proposed project.

"Thismajor milestone moves us one step closer to creating family-wage jobs inLongview, while meeting Washington's strict environmental standards," BillChapman, CEO for Millennium Bulk Terminals, said in a news release. "Wewill build this project right and honor the longstanding support we have earnedfrom labor and the Longview community."

Theproject will create 2,650 direct and indirect jobs, and it will include aprivate investment of $680 million in Cowlitz County, the company said.The company also projects that during construction it will contribute $43.1million in state and local taxes and $5.4 million in state and local taxesyearly after becoming operational.

Energyregulators from 14 states have written to the U.S. EPA to request further informationand technical assistance on the Clean Power Plan, acknowledging the U.S.Supreme Court's stay of the rule.

Thestates asked Janet McCabe, the agency's acting assistant administrator for theOffice of Air and Radiation, for additional clarity and guidance on severalprograms and rules ancillary to the Clean Power Plan. The states would like tosee a finalized model rule or rules, which the agency was preparing prior tothe Supreme Court stay on Feb. 9. Additionally, the states would like guidanceon the proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program, which the EPA on April 26advanced to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

"Webelieve EPA can provide information helpful to states consistent with the stay,as EPA has done previously when litigation is pending and a stay is ineffect," the letter reads.

TheCenter for Biological Diversity intends to sue the U.S. EPA for allegedlyfailing to review and revise federal air quality standards for sulfur oxidesand nitrogen dioxide, which are pollutants that can be released from power plants.

Theenvironmental group, in a letter of intent released April 27, said the EPAfailed to review air quality criteria for sulfur oxides, or SOx, and theprimary National Ambient Air Quality Standards for sulfur dioxide, or SO2, andthe NAAQS for nitrogen oxide, or NOx. The EPA regulates SO2 under the NAAQSrather than the wider category of compounds grouped as SOx.

Currently,the primary SO2 standard is 75 parts/billion and the secondary is 0.5parts/million; the NO2 primary standard is 100 ppb and the secondary standardis 53 ppb.

Theletter of intent warns that the group will bring a lawsuit against the EPAafter 60 days for failing to revise the standards in line with the Clean AirAct.

TheU.S. Bureau of Land Management has scheduled six meetings in an effort togather public input on potential federal coal lease program reform.

Thefederal agency hopes that the meetings, which will start in mid-May andcontinue through June, will inform the kinds of issues and policies that wereoutlined in a new programmatic environmental impact statement, on March 24.

Someof these changes to the coal program include a possible in the royalty paymentsproducers make, increasing the rate on surface mining to 18.75% from the 12.5%companies pay now. This new rate would reflect that paid by offshore oil andgas production in U.S. waters.

In acontinuing attempt to mend ties with coal producing parts of the countryfollowing controversial comments regarding the future of the industry,Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton traveled to West Virginia and Kentuckythis week, but found few willing to listen.

Atevents held this week, Clinton stressed the need for investment in communitiesmost impacted by the industry downturn, including a $30 aid she has previously proposed.Calling for a "Marshall Plan" for the region, Clinton promisedsupport for the region whether she received its support on Election Day or not.

TheU.S. EPA has asked a federal judge to either rule it has fulfilled its missionto assess the jobs impact of Clean Air Act regulations or order it to do so ina case brought by a leading coal producer.

Amemorandum supporting the motion says the lawsuit brought by is costing"millions of dollars of public funds" to respond to requests for documentsand depositions in the case. A trial is currently scheduled to start July 19,but the EPA hopes the court can issue a summary judgment on the matter.

Thefiling states that by the end of October 2015, with five months of discoveryremaining, EPA had obligated more than $1 million to obtain contract attorneysto assist on the case. Also by mid-October 2015, the agency had allocatedapproximately 217 employees from the EPA, U.S. Department of Justice and threecontractor firms working the equivalent of 311 40-hour work weeks related tothe litigation.

TheU.S. Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcementissued an approved mining plan modification to allow continued mining offederal coal at the Trapper mine in Colorado.

Theapproval followed a finding of no significant impact in the environmentalassessment of the mine. The decision allows Trapper Mining Inc. to continue mining and produce up to2.6 million tons of coal from two federal coal leases originally issued in 1958and 1962.

"The[finding of no significant impact] concludes that mining operations under theTrapper mining plan are not expected to have any significant environmentaleffect and that, as a result, there would be no need for the agency to preparean environmental impact statement," a legal notice filed in the U.S.District Court for the District of Colorado said.

Almostimmediately after taking office as Alberta's 17th premier, Rachel Notley andher fellow New Democratic Party lawmakers moved to roll out sweeping climatechange and energy policy that would change the reputation of the oil-producingprovince into one that innovates and produces fossil fuels responsibly.

InNovember 2015, the new Alberta government released its proposed , which will phaseout coal-fired generation within 15 years, cap oil sands emissions at 100megatonnes annually and implement a carbon tax. The carbon levy, as Notleycalls it, will tax emissions in the province economy-wide starting in January2017 at C$20 per tonne, rising to C$30 per tonne by January 2018.

Themoney will be reinvested back into green energy and efficiency programs. Notleysaid Alberta is the only province in Canada without an energy efficiencyprogram, and a portion of the revenue from the new carbon tax will be used tocreate such a program.