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On April 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its long-anticipated final rules aimed at existing coal and new natural gas power plants.

The four new rules to regulate power plants represent “the wrong approach at a critical time for our nation’s energy future,” says Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). NRECA represents nearly 900 local electric cooperatives throughout the U.S., including those in Iowa. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape.

Matheson adds, “The path outlined by the EPA is unlawful, unrealistic and unachievable. It undermines electric reliability and poses grave consequences for an already stressed electric grid. The American economy can’t succeed without reliable electricity. Smart energy policy recognizes that fundamental truth and works to help keep the lights on. This barrage of new EPA rules ignores our nation’s ongoing electric reliability challenges and is the wrong approach at a critical time for our nation’s energy future.”

Specifically, NRECA believes the final rule is problematic for the following key reasons:

1. Disregards the law and Supreme Court decisions. The rule violates the Clean Air Act because the EPA asserts vast new authority of major economic and political significance without a clear statement from Congress. It disregards the “major questions doctrine” and is inconsistent with the text, structure and context of Clean Air Act Section 111.

2. Requires the use of inadequately demonstrated technology. While carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a promising technology, it is not yet widespread nor commercially available and thus has not been “adequately demonstrated” as is required. No units in the country are currently achieving the EPA’s required 90% capture rate consistently and while operating at baseload levels.

3. Mandates unrealistic and unachievable timelines. There needs to be more infrastructure in place, especially massive pipeline networks, to support CCS and hydrogen, even assuming the technologies work as the EPA envisions. The necessary infrastructure cannot reasonably be expected to be in place in time to meet the EPA’s requirements.

4. Jeopardizes reliability and affordability. The final rule will reduce key generating resources, magnifying today’s reliability challenges with grave consequences for an already stressed electric grid. All of this will occur while the demand for electricity skyrockets as we electrify more of the American economy.

The EPA finalized its rule against a backdrop of daunting threats to reliability, as electricity demand surges at the same time supply is decreasing.

The Energy Information Administration projects that power demand will reach record highs in 2024 and 2025, increasing by 2.5% and 3.2%, respectively. Grid planners forecast electricity demand to grow by 38 gigawatts through 2028, the equivalent of adding another California to the grid.

Meanwhile, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation has warned that more than 110 gigawatts of always-available generation, enough to power about 35 million homes, will retire by 2033. Over the next five years, all or parts of 19 states are at high risk of rolling blackouts during normal peak conditions.

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