State environmental commission agrees to schedule public hearings on power plan rule

RALEIGH

The state Environmental Management Commission, or EMC, on Thursday voted to seek public comment on the Department of Environmental Quality's primary plan for complying with new federal rules for controlling carbon emissions.

The primary plan consists of proposed rules for improving efficiencies at the state's electric generating units, which the Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, believes is the only component of the federal carbon rule that is legal under the Clean Air Act. DEQ also plans to develop and seek public input, at a later date, on a backup plan to address other aspects of the federal rules, if they are later upheld by the courts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has directed states to develop plans for controlling carbon emissions through its federal power plan rule. The proposed rules before the EMC detail the process for improving operating efficiencies, and thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions, at coal and natural gas fueled power plants in the state. The commission decided to schedule hearings on the efficiency rules to ensure that North Carolina meets the EPA’s Sept. 6, 2016, deadline for states to submit a plan and avoid the imposition of a federal plan.

The commission unanimously decided to hold public hearings and establish a 60-day comment period on the proposed rules. The comment period will extend from Nov. 16, 2015 until Jan. 15, 2016, and public hearings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

  • 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Chamber, 600 East Fourth St., Charlotte.
  • 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Archdale Building, Ground Floor Hearing Room, 512 North Salisbury St., Raleigh.
  • 6 p.m. Jan. 5, 2016 at the Roland Grise Middle School Auditorium, 4412 Lake Avenue, Wilmington.

 

North Carolina is moving forward with its rules addressing efficiencies at electric power plants because that aspect of the EPA rule is authorized by the federal Clean Air Act. More information about the proposed rules can be found at the N.C. Division of Air Quality’s website, on the Draft Rules page.

North Carolina has joined a lawsuit with 23 other states challenging aspects of the EPA plan that would restructure the way electricity is generated and consumed in the nation. DEQ believes those aspects of the federal rules are outside the authority of the Clean Air Act and unlikely to hold up in courts.

DEQ told the commission it intends to develop a backup plan that will be completed at the same time as other states that request a two-year extension for creating their compliance plan. The decision to develop a backup plan was made after DEQ met with stakeholders including industrial groups, utility companies and special interest groups to discuss the best path forward for North Carolina.

More information on air quality issues can be found at the DAQ website, www.ncair.org.

 

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