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Tag Archive: United States Environmental Protection Agency

Commonwealth Pledges Reduced Carbon Emissions


Virginia Governor McAuliffe
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On June 28, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an Executive Order intended to significantly reduce carbon emissions from Virginia’s power plants and to combat the effects of climate change in the Commonwealth. Executive Order No.57 directs Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward to convene a Work Group and to report back to the Governor with concrete recommendations for reducing CO2 emissions. The Executive Order directs the Secretary to provide a final report and recommendations to the Governor no later than May 31, 2017.

Governor McAuliffe noted that the power generation sector, including coal and gas-fired power plants, account for almost 30% of the total carbon emissions in the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe also stated that he had ample authority under Article V of the Virginia Constitution and Virginia Code Section 10.1 to mandate carbon reductions via executive order. The Executive Order directs the Secretary to consider electric rate impacts and economic development opportunities in her recommendations.

The announcement came as federal efforts to address climate change are on hold. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (which we covered here), a regulation that the Obama Administration hopes will drastically reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s coal and gas-fired power plants and promote new investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency resources.  The Governor said that even though EPA’s Clean Power Plan has been stayed by the Court, Virginia cannot afford to delay taking action on climate change.

The press release from the Governor’s Office and full text of the Executive Order is Available here.

Supreme Court Halts Clean Power Plan

On Tuesday, February 9, 2016, the United States Supreme Court held in a five to four decision to halt enforcement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan by the Obama administration until its legal challenges are resolved.  The challenge to the Clean Power Plan was brought by a group of 27 states and various utilities, coal miners, companies and business groups.  The Court’s ruling means the EPA will not be able to enforce its September 6, 2016 deadline for states to either submit their emission reduction plans or request a two-year extension until the lawsuit battles its way through the court system.  This overrules the DC Court’s refusal to grant the stay, which we discussed here.

The Supreme Court’s ruling came after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the request in January.  The DC Circuit will commence its review of the merits of the challenges to the Clean Power Plan on an expedited basis, with oral arguments to begin June 2. Contact our energy regulation lawyers to get more information on this issue or talk about how the Clean Energy Plan might affect your business.

D.C. Court of Appeals Denies Stay of EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Thursday declined to halt the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (“CPP”). The CPP, which requires states to submit proposals to reduce carbon emissions from power generation facilities, was promulgated by the EPA on August 15, 2015 under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Opponents of rule, including West Virginia and 23 other states, immediately filed suit in federal court, arguing that the rule exceeded the EPA’s legal authority under Section 111(d). The group also asked the appellate court to halt the implementation of the CPP while their legal challenge is pending. The states argued that implementation of the rule would cause “irreparable harm.”

Thursday’s decision means that the rule will remain in effect while the court considers the lawsuit. The court held that the petitioners “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.” The D.C. Circuit cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that injunctions will only be granted when the petitioners demonstrate a “strong likelihood of success on the merits” and when necessary to prevent “irreparable harm.” While allowing the implementation of the CPP to go forward, the D.C. Circuit ordered that the lawsuit will be heard “on an expedited basis.” Oral argument on the merits is scheduled for June 2, 2016.  State environmental agencies have until September 6, 2016 to submit a CPP compliance plan to the EPA.

If you have an interest in the issue of the EPA’s Clean Energy Plan or questions about the court’s decision, we invite you to call any of our utility regulation and energy lawyers.

The Clean Power Plan Debate in Virginia

On October 5, 2015, the Richmond Times Dispatch included an article on the ongoing debate between utilities and renewable energy advocates as to how Virginia will comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan.  The Clean Power Plan obligates states to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions – which is aimed at cutting carbon emissions from power plants in the United States by a third.  

Renewable energy advocates view this requirement as an opportunity to shift Virginia’s power supply from almost entirely depending on coal, natural gas and uranium – to utilizing more renewable energy, including solar facilities.  However, utilities argue, among other things, that the cost of such changes would be passed on to ratepayers – resulting in an increase in electricity rates by 20 to 40 percent.

Pursuant to the Clean Power Plan, states have until 2017 to finalize their plans to comply with its terms.  The renewable energy lawyers at GreeneHurlocker will continue to closely monitor the energy market as Virginia works towards complying with these requirements.

Virginia’s Renewable Energy Industry Continues to Grow

With the final regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan expected by the end of the summer, along with recent legislative initiatives and the economic realities of solar and other forms of renewable energy, Virginia’s renewable energy industry continues to grow.  We noticed this article published on July 28, 2015 by Virginia Business, which takes a look at this growing transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the Virginia market. If you have questions about the renewable energy market industry or legal issues relating to the development of these projects, just contact any of our Virginia energy lawyers.

Details of Dominion’s 2015 Integrated Resource Plan

Dominion Virginia Power (“Dominion”) has filed its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (the “2015 IRP”), which covers the period 2016 through 2030, with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (the “SCC”). You can view Dominion’s 2015 IRP here.

Dominion’s stated objective in its 2015 IRP is to “identify the mix of resources necessary to meet its customers’ projected energy and capacity needs in an efficient and reliable manner at the lowest reasonable cost, while considering future uncertainties.”   Dominion’s plan for meeting the future needs include a balanced approach of:  (i) supply-side resources, (ii) demand-side resources and (iii) market purchases.

Among other things, in the 2015 IRP, Dominion sets forth its evaluation of compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (the “EPA”) Clean Power Plan  regulations In its evaluation, the 2015 IRP describes four alternative plans, and a least-cost plan that would not comply with the EPA’s proposed rules but is provided for comparison purposes only.  Three of the stated plans would result in retirements of coal capacity.

Dominion also includes provisions of the recently-enacted SB 1349, which amends Virginia Code Section 56-599 and establishes a “Transitional Rate Period,” which consists of five successive twelve-month test periods beginning January 1, 2015 and ending December 31, 2019. The legislation obligates the SCC to submit a report and make recommendations assessing the updated integrated resource plan of any investor-owned incumbent electric utility, to the Virginia General Assembly and Governor by December 1 of each year. The 2015 IRP is Dominion’s first integrated resource plan filed during the Transitional Rate Period.

Also included in the 2015 IRP are sections on load forecasting and alternative rate studies, existing resources and resources currently under development, planning assumptions and future resources.

The SCC will review the 2015 IRP and make a determination as to whether the 2015 IRP is reasonable and is in the public interest. The SCC has not yet issued a procedural order in this case, and we will update this Alert as soon as that happens.

GreeneHurlocker works with many clients operating in areas that may be impacted by the 2015 IRP proceeding. Please contact one of our Mid-Atlantic energy lawyers if you have questions about the 2015 IRP, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan or any other issues relating to Virginia energy regulation.