TheU.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan will offer electricity generators and sellers evenmore opportunities to work with companies like , , Amazon Inc. and MicrosoftCorp. in developing new approaches to support renewable energy, thecompanies say.
Thetechnology giantswere among more than a dozen parties that offered their support to the carbonrule as a friend of the court. Amicus briefs were due to the U.S. Court ofAppeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 1.
TheClean Power Plan, promulgated under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act,established statewide carbon dioxide emission standards for existing fossilfuel-fired electric generating units with the goal of cutting CO2 emissions 32%as measured from a 2005 baseline by 2030. The Supreme Court on Feb. 9 the rule in anunprecedented decision that surprised many in the industry because the D.C.Circuit has yet to rule on the merits of the underlying appeal.
Thefour tech companies all have ambitious carbon reduction goals and plan to, oralready are, powering operations with 100% renewable energy. The companiesexpressed confidence in their regional grid operators' ability to manage thegrid effectively with increasing levels of renewable energy.
Renewablesare also cost-effective — cheaper, even in some instances than fossilgeneration — and can provide protection from price volatility seen with fossilfuel-driven generation, the companies said. The companies also said they "havefound that increasing the use of renewable energy is good for the environmentand good for business."
Agroup of self-described "gridexperts" also filed a brief in support of the EPA, saying theClean Power Plan "harnesses the unique 'interconnectedness' that 'is afundamental aspect of the nation's electricity system'" to drive reductionsof carbon dioxide emissions.
Thegrid experts said the assertion by the Clean Power Plan's challengers that therule will lead to restructuringof the grid or reliabilityproblems "are unfounded, and stem from fundamental misunderstandings, ormisrepresentations, of how the grids respond to pollution controls." Theexperts also said claims that transmission costs will be overly burdensome areoverstated.
Theexperts explained how the grid works and how it already uses generationshifting, which is a much-challenged portion of the Clean Power Plan. The ruleallows power plants burning a high-emitting fuel such as coal to shiftgeneration to low- or non-emitting resources, such as a natural gas,combined-cycle or solar-powered facility. The challengers contend this "outside-the-fence-line"approach to compliance is unlawful.
Theexperts said the EPA correctly chose generation-shifting as its best system ofemission reduction, or BSER, because the grid operates as an integratedmachine. "Because all generators deliver undifferentiatedpower to a regional grid that operates as a single machine, it would make nosense for the rule to consider only CO2 emissions reductions that could beachieved through technologies installed within the ephemeral boundaries ofindividual facilities," the experts said. "Energy must be pooledbecause it cannot be directed — like an e-mail or letter — to a particularrecipient."
TheInstitute for Policy Integrity, a not-for-profit policy think tank at the NewYork University School of Law, also defendedgeneration shifting. The institute said that while Congress did not define "bestsystem of emission reduction" when developing Section 111(d) of the CleanAir Act, the Senate contemplated other ways to reduce emissions. Documents froma 1970 Senate session considered reduction techniques that reflected "thegreatest degree of emission control" that could be achieved through "applicationof the latest available control technology, processes, operating methods, orother alternatives."
Congressdid amend the statute in 1977, changing the portion of the act addressing newsources of pollution to reflect the "best technological system ofcontinuous emission reduction." However, the amendments left flexibilityfor the EPA to determine the "best system of continuous emission reduction"for existing sources, the institute said.
"Thus,for existing sources, legislators recognized that the best system was 'notnecessarily technological,'" the institute wrote, quoting a congressionaldocument from 1977. In 1990, the statute changed again, and both new andexisting sources switched to the more broad BSER definition, which remainstoday.
"Takentogether, this history suggests that [Section] 111's framers intended to grantEPA wide latitude in determining a best system of emission reduction,particularly with respect to existing sources," the institute wrote.
FormerEPA Administrators William Ruckelshaus and William Reilly, the first and fifth,and seventh leaders of the agency, respectively, with their of the Clean Power Plan. Bothparticipated in implementing some of the Clean Air Act provisions that arecentral to the litigation against the carbon rule.
Ruckelshausand Reilly dismissed the claims of the petitioners that the Clean Power Plantramples on states' sovereignty and said the rule "carefully respects theindependence of state sovereigns and reflects the kind of cooperativefederalism [we] sought to champion."
Acoalition of stateutility commissioners also offeredtheir thoughts on the rule's goals, which challengers have dubbed "." The commissionerssaid many states are already meeting or exceeding their Clean Power Plan goals,and others could comply with ease.
"PetitionerTexas, for example, is on track to achieve the 2022-2029 interim target goals,and 88% of the 2030 compliance goal assuming business-as-usual," thecommissioners said. In fact, the commissioners cited a study by M.J. Bradley& Associates that predicted 21 of the opposing states will meet their goalsthrough 2024 and 18 will achieve the 2030 targets by relying on existing generationand planned investments and policy goals.
Thecommissioners also contend that the rule's phased-in deadlines provide morethan sufficient time for states to respond, and many states have developedcomplex plans for environmental regulations on shorter time frames. New Jersey,for example, developed in 14 months a plan to comply with the EPA's nitrogenoxide regulation, and a state plan for the now-defunct Clean Air InterstateRule took less than two years. And states are not starting from scratch; thecommissioners said states have had since the Clean Power Plan's announcement inJune 2014 to start working.