No Consensus on Clean Power Plan, but McAuliffe Cutting CO2 Emissions by Other Means

David K. Paylor

David K. Paylor

After five meetings of stakeholders to discuss the best way to implement the Clean Power Plan, “there is no consensus” on how to proceed, said David K. Paylor, director of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality earlier today. “What works for some people doesn’t work for others.”

On the positive side, it looks like Virginia may have plenty of time to figure out the best approach. A legal appeal by 25 states to block the plan likely will end up decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, but probably not this year. Virginia will use the time “to get smarter,” Paylor said at the Virginia Power Dialog, a conclave of Virginia college students held at the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University.

A virtue of the Clean Power Plan, said Paylor, is its flexibility. States can choose between three broad approaches: setting CO2 emission targets by rate (CO2 emitted per unit of electric power), by total volume of CO2 emitted from existing power plants, or by total volume of CO2 emitted from both existing and new facilities. Each has different implications for CO2 reduction, rate impact and reliability of service, and each offers pros and cons for different stakeholders including electric utilities, independent power producers, energy consumers, and environmentalists.

While goals vary by state, depending upon their energy mix, the national goal is to achieve a 30% reduction in 2005-level CO2 emissions by 2030. Because of Virginia’s aggressive shift from coal to natural gas over the past decade, the state had already achieved a 30% reduction by 2014. Environmental groups are pushing an approach that would achieve much bigger reductions.

Angela Navarro

Angela Navarro

While the legal fate of the Clean Power Plan is uncertain, the McAuliffe administration is backing a broad array of measures to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, said Angela Navarro, deputy secretary of Natural Resources. Among a half-dozen initiatives she mentioned, the state has set a goal of cutting energy consumption in state facilities 15% by 2017.

The administration wants to “lead by example,” she said. State procurement policies can build the market by generating demand for conservation and renewable electricity. Ideally, growing demand will induce suppliers and manufacturers to set up shop here. “The governor’s dream,” she said, “is for solar manufacturers to locate in Virginia and to have for solar panels stamped with ‘Made in Virginia.'”

— JAB

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25 responses to “No Consensus on Clean Power Plan, but McAuliffe Cutting CO2 Emissions by Other Means

  1. This is the first time I have seen the governor support these policies. But it reads more like a press release than a policy.

    The difficulty is once the SCC approves a plant and the DEQ issues air quality permits for it. Everyone wants the decision to be successful. So policies are enacted that diminish the chances that energy efficiency and third-party distributed generation are allowed to reduce the revenues from approved facilities. And the cycle continues.

    It would be far better to have a comprehensive energy plan, not just a utility IRP, that says how our energy future should be shaped. The traditional and the new both have a place in this future. An environment should be created that allows the best solutions for various circumstances to be selected, with prices and customer choices determining the mix.

    The market is distorted by the guaranteed rates of return given to utilities, where third-party developers get no such guarantee. And utility scale solar is directly compared to third-party solar, but the transmission is a revenue source to the utility but a cost to the third-party developer. Not to mention an unfair comparison between utility scale solar (priced without the necessary transmission) and distributed solar (that needs no transmission).

    With so many axes to grind, how can a statewide energy policy be developed? The CPP gives us a perfect opportunity to do so. Do we have the political will to make it happen? Typically, the state utility regulator is the body charged with this responsibility (PSC in NY – SCC here). Does the SCC want the job? Are others willing to cede it to them? Or will we argue our way to a stalemate and miss this grand opportunity?

    • TomH, the McAuliffe administration *does* have a comprehensive energy plan: https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DE/2014_VirginiaEnergyPlan2.shtml

      • I just read it so I assume your comment is tongue in cheek. A “real” plan such as is being developed in NY is backed by legislation and regulatory guidelines and decisions that steer energy development in the direction of the plan. No such action as yet in Virginia. Massachusetts is also out in front on this.

        Utilities are given special status in order to serve the public interest. Dominion has loads of bright people. They can create a lower cost, more reliable energy system and make money at it, if they are steered in the right direction. And Virginia will prosper as a result.

    • Tom, as TBill notes below, many hundreds of MW of coal generation will be retiring soon (hundreds already has); thus, it appears to me that there will be plenty of room for both EE, DR and DER to grow in Virginia without revenues from the approved Greensville plant to be endangered. I agree with you that third party distributed solar has a steeper curve, because it has to convince the legislature to change laws in Virginia.

      Getting any sort of comprehensive energy policy is also very difficult in the current political milieu, with a solid red legislature and mostly blue executive branch going forward. The reds appeared entrenched until the end of time in the legislature, but 25 years ago the blues held it pretty fast.

      The General Assembly has made it very plain to the SCC that it (the GA) makes the policy through legislation and the job of the Commission is to carry out that policy. Hasn’t always been that way, but it is now.

  2. I’m not getting this. Every other time everyone rolls for for Dominion to do their thing – then when Dominion actually expresses a preference for CPP it becomes an “issue” for state agencies to decide…

    Dominion likes CPP – they probably have a plan.. why not ask Dominion what their plan is and heckfire – go forward with like we normally do with Dominions preferences!

  3. The state is already planning to shut down a lot of coal and substitute with natural gas and some solar…almost meets CPP. The Va. environmental groups on the CPP committee are essentially demanding that Va. self-inflict on itself an extremely low CO2 target and a ban on any further use natural gas. The Gov and the DEQ never really said what they would propose in that regard.

    The EPA approach allowed a wide range of possible approaches, but political divisiveness makes a consensus choice impossible for a purple state. The SCOTUS delay of CPP gave a gift to Gov McAuliffe of not having to pick a direction. Even if not delayed, Va. still had the option of taking 2 more years to finalize a plan, which is what we should have done anyways, under the complex circumstances. So I am happy to not paint anyone into a corner at this stage.

  4. still not getting it. I thought Dominion said they like the CPP and implied they can find a way to deal with it.

    no?

    everyone is acting like Dominion is not involved in the process when every other time – Dominion is driving the bus.

    Why is Dominions support of the CPP not part of this process now?

    • Please, please, please don’t anybody forget that just over a year ago the CPP was presented as such a great threat to the Virginia economy and “way of life” that rate reviews were suspended for a half-decade or longer, and the utility was given an unprecedented exemption from oversight and rate regulation. You could see all the strings on that leading back to the utility. Now here we are just a year after that bill was signed and Dominion is endorsing the CPP and actually advocating for the CPP by filing an amicus.

      Then I read their brief in that case and lo and behold it is all about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The light bulb went on…..

    • Larry as I read the Dominion statement, I saw it loaded with caveats–if the plan continues to allow these choices, if the plan adheres to flexible timeline (i.e., those that permit new gas pipelines to be sited and built), if the plan continues to allow counting and trading in the manner we now understand, then we can support it.

      Lot of “ifs” in that endorsement.

  5. The CPP is unique in that it puts Virginia not Dominion in charge of how we address CPP. That give’s Virginia the power to throw a monkey wrench in Dominion’s plans. Not saying Virginia wants to do that, but now politics comes in and Repubs/Dems would set different rules on Virginia.

  6. how we “address” CPP – one might think would require the expertise of Dominion though rather than the incompetence of politics.

    I’m no defender of Dominion on all things electric but this seems especially ignorant to ignore Dominion’s stated preference and purposely throw into disarray something that ultimately Dominion will have to deal with anyhow.

    all this discussion about how to accommodate solar is child’s play compared to the potency of politics to screw things up.

    Perhaps at some point the boys that don’t even want to record votes on their legislative “work” will have a change of heart and at the least listen a little bit to Dominion before they burn down everything just to see it burn down.

    • I appreciate your position. But the Democrat side of the aisle tends to take their policy direction from what the Va. environmental groups are asking for. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a company bashed as hard as Dominion gets bashed from the Va. environmental groups. I see no let up in this, unless Dominion appoints the Va. environmental groups to their board and rapidly phases out all use fossil fuels and nuclear.

      • Any nonprofit that hires lobbyists (in-house or outside) should not be permitted to retain tax-exempt status – period. Back in the 90s, Bill Clinton pushed for, and received, legislation that prohibits the tax deduction of lobbying costs. I agreed with the President on that one. But the same principle should extend to nonprofits that do professional lobbying. Level the playing field.

        Before someone overreacts I am not calling for taxation of revenues of nonprofits that don’t hire any professional lobbyists, but only work through unpaid volunteers.

    • Agreed, LarryG and TBill. But the saddest, though most predictable, thing about this episode is that Virginia cannot use the federal litigation delay to get ahead of the game here with a consensus that meets the CPP ahead of deadline [it WILL eventually be upheld] and allows everyone involved (it’s not just Dominion!) to get on with their planning for the future, but will simply kick the can down the road at every chance for another day.

      So the Gov’s idea is that, “State procurement policies can build the market by generating demand for conservation and renewable electricity. Ideally, growing demand will induce suppliers and manufacturers will set up shop here.” Yep, that does sound like a press release, but it would be more impressive if there were actual plans for real “State procurement policies” that accomplished it — any signs of THAT from McAuliffe?

  7. The DOD and the DOE have moved the clean energy needle in the US by doing what Governor McCauliffe is now planning for VA. At least it is a start and will have some effects.

    Sadly this environmentalist reads all these posts, including the comments by the DEQ and finds not much about the future … only about ‘compliance.’ Nothing about the general welfare. Leaving aside climate change for now, digging up, transporting and burning fossil fuels has created much of the pollution we now live with, pollution whose bad effects on our health are well documented.

    Dominion’s choice to buy and hold offshore leases, while they build more gas facilities, carries similar risks and the CO2 reductions aren’t real. The reductions only occur at the plant and don’t include the methane emissions at the wellhead or in transport, or the much greater hazard of methane vs CO2. The plan for gas to replace coal only demonstrates the money and power of the fossil industries, not what is best for the public.

    The Rockefeller Family Fund has announced it will divest of all fossil fuel investments. Here is part of their statement …
    ‘While the global community works to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, it makes little sense—financially or ethically—to continue holding investments in these companies. There is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons. The science and intent enunciated by the Paris agreement cannot be more clear: far from finding additional sources of fossil fuels, we must keep most of the already discovered reserves in the ground if there is any hope for human and natural ecosystems to survive and thrive in the decades ahead.”

    Their remarks also include a statement that Exxon has apparently demonstrated “contempt for the public interest,” referring to the suit being brought against the company for their disinformation campaign against climate change since the 80’s..

    There it is … “the public interest.” It was also front and center in the Oregon court’s decision in favor of the 21 youths who are suing the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production and combustion of fossil fuels.”
    The Judge framed the case saying … “Plaintiffs are suing the United States … because the government has known for decades that carbon dioxide (C02) pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change and has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Moreover, plaintiffs allege that the government and its agencies have taken action or failed to take action that has resulted in increased carbon pollution through fossil fuel extraction, production, consumption, transportation, and exportation” … making ‘it extremely difficult for plaintiffs to protect their vital natural systems and a livable world.”
    The ‘public interest” … as the government responsibility. This case is moving forward. It could change the conversation.

  8. re: ” But the Democrat side of the aisle tends to take their policy direction from what the Va. environmental groups are asking for.”

    Geeze Tbill – what the Dems AND the environmental community has supported IS the CPP! They’re NOT saying the CPP is not enough and even more needs to be done – they’re just supporting the CPP proposal.

    And NOW, so is Dominion.

    so how does that conform to the view that Dems are supporting some radical “leftist” environmental position?

    I think you’ve gotten a little too much of the GOP swill ingested here.

    When the basic GOP position is at odds with Dominion and it’s still characterized as a political difference with Dems and those pesky environmentalists – well good grief!

    here’s Power to the People’s take by the way:

    https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2016/04/09/why-does-dominion-power-support-epas-clean-power-plan/

    please note they’re not advocating anything more or different than CPP – only explaining that CPP is not exactly the left wing environmental nightmare that the Va GOP has been blathering ….. via SB 1349.

    Finally – as with many other issues these days – I find it hard to accept ANY opposition from the GOP on any issue including the CPP if they cannot get off their lazy arses and say what they want instead.

    this recent practice of blind opposition and not establishing your own affirmative position is a lot of what is wrong with friends on the right these days – on most every major consequential issue of our time.

  9. re: ” Any nonprofit that hires lobbyists (in-house or outside) should not be permitted to retain tax-exempt status”

    TMT – you DO realize that MOST ALL of the industry groups ALSO are tax-exempt , right?

    so the electric industry will all get together to create and fund an entity whose sole purpose is to lobby FOR their interests.

    How about this?

    How about ALL LOBBY MONEY regardless of whether it is industry money or those that would be those pesky environs… or other public interest groups – all groups – be governed by the same money rules?

    why do you want to hobble the groups you oppose and ignore the groups you apparently favor?

    oh wait…..

    come on TMT – be in favor of a FAIR system that serves the interests of all of us – not a system that targets certain groups that you and others would be politically opposed to .

    what kind of a system is that, guy?

    My position, by the way, is actually aligned with the industry lobby (and enviro groups) position and that is that various interest groups know best how legislation will affect the people they represent – and far more than the dunderheads in the General Assembly or Congress understand.

    It’s a GOOD thing to have BOth sides present their views to the folks considering the legislation – not a bad thing at all.

    and it’s downright amusing to target the non-industry public interest groups money which is pitiful compared to the industry guys anyhow.

    why would you want to essentially shut down the public interest groups and leave the industry groups the way they are?

    My problem is the money, not for lobbyists, but the money that finds it’s way into the pockets of those legislators who might be influenced.

    that money is not well reported on a timely basis and some not at all because it’s apparently exempt – like the DOminion golf trips for the head of DEQ.

    THAT money -I’d require total and immediate disclosure not banning it but the penalties for not disclosing would be severe.

    but geeze TMT – you worry about the pitiful finances of the public interest groups but have no such concerns about the industry groups? good lord.

    • Let me put it this way.
      Va. environmental groups do NOT support the Clean Power Plan because they feel EPA was too lax on allowing natural gas. The environmental groups would only support CPP if it mandated only wind and solar and hydro. They want to Virginia to adopt the strictest possible carbon emissions cap allowed under the Plan. The environmental groups also want Virginia to join the RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) to commit to a cap and trade program for reducing carbon emissions to zero over the longer term.

      However, as draconian as it is, the CPP does not require such a strict response from Virginia.

      The fact that Dominion “supports” CPP does not represent much common ground between Dominion and others. Which is the whole thrust of Jim’s blog: there is no joy in Mudville (CPP).

  10. does that mean Dominion is in between the GOP and most/all of the enviros?

    no enviro group in Va supports CPP?

    none of them supports gas?

    what do the right-side opponents of CPP support if not CPP – status quo?

    • My feeling is neither the Dems nor Repubs nor Gov McAuliffe nor DEQ nor Dominion have outlined their specific approach to meet CPP (which coal plants to shut etc). Given the lack of consensus, I would have been delighted to get 5 or 6 different specific plans/options.

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  12. Here’s an article saying what I am trying to say:

    Va. governor pressed to go beyond EPA rule
    Rod Kuckro, E&E reporter
    EnergyWire: Friday, April 1, 2016
    Environmental groups are asking Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to develop a compliance regime for U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan that goes well beyond what is demanded of the state in the rule to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants.

  13. Pingback: News: No consensus on Clean Power Plan, but McAuliffe pushing emissions reductions by other means - VAEEC | Virginia Energy Efficiency Council

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