US electric co-ops apex sues government over green power rules

US electric co-ops apex sues government over green power rules
Green groups have welcomed new rules to tackle climate change, but NRECA says they are unlawful and threaten US energy supplies

The US National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has filed a lawsuit challenging the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA_ over its new power plant rule.

Designed to address the threat of climate change and push the US towards cleaner energy, the new rules require existing coal plants and future natural gas plants to address carbon emissions.

Announced on 25 April, the rules are designed to help cut power plant emissions by 75% below 2005 levels by 2035, and 83% by 2040. EPA hopes the rules will yield a $370bn in climate and public health benefits and reduce 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon emissions over 25 years.

The new rules come alongside new new regulations on mercury, wastewater and coal ash disposal at power plants.

Coal plants that expect to operate beyond 2039 will have to reduce their carbon emissions by 90% by 2032 using carbon capture or other means. Coal plants closing by 2039 will have to reduce their emissions 16% by 2030. Plants scheduled to retire before 2032 are exempt from reducing emissions, but do have reporting requirements.

But Nreca, which has previously said the changes are unlawful and will threaten energy supplies in the US, and has filed a suit against EPA in the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“EPA’s power plant rule is unlawful, unreasonable and unachievable,” said CEO Jim Matheson. “It exceeds EPA’s authority and poses an immediate threat to the American electric grid. Under the rule, EPA illegally attempts to transform the US energy economy by forcing a shift in electricity generation to the agency’s favoured sources.”

He added: “Reliable electricity is the foundation of the American economy. EPA’s rule recklessly undermines that foundation by forcing the premature closure of power plants that are critical to keeping the lights on – especially as America increasingly relies on electricity to power the economy.”

Other energy sector bodies are also critical of the changes. Michelle Bloodworth, president and CEO of America’s Power, a trade body for coal power plants, labelled them “an extreme and unlawful overreach that endangers America’s supply of dependable and affordable electricity”.

Meanwhile, environmental groups have welcomed the rules. Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club, hailed them as “the culmination of years of advocacy for common-sense safeguards that will have a direct impact on communities long forced to suffer in the shadow of the dirtiest power plants in the country.”

He added: “It is also a major step forward in our movement’s fight to decarbonise the electric sector and help avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”