House Subcommittee Links Blackouts to EPA Rules

By Published On: September 16, 2011

Following the San Diego-area blackout last week, a House panel investigated whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution and greenhouse gas restrictions impacted the national transmission grid’s reliability. The Sept. 14 hearing continues the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & Power’s attempts to derail the environmental agency’s policies. Republicans on the committee claim agency policies are “likely to force” the shut down of coal plants, resulting in a less-stable grid. They also assert that the EPA policies have a “chilling” effect on job growth while increasing energy prices. “The potential consequences of unreliable electricity--on the economy, on the military, and on the lives of the American people--are disturbing,” subcommittee chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) stated. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chair Jon Wellinghoff did not express concern over simultaneously meeting environmental standards and providing grid reliability. He, and other commission members, deferred to regional transmission entities, like the California Independent System Operator, to evaluate the agency’s impacts on electricity requirements. Regional transmission managers have a “better knowledge of [their] operations, needs and requirements,” noted commissioner Marc Spitzer. “[They’re] in the best position to determine through planning processes how to meet various regulatory requirements.” He added that it’s doubtful a regional grid operator would have “to choose between compliance with” one agency, like the EPA, and another, like FERC. Republican committee members emphasized there’s no ongoing coordination and communications between the two agencies, but commissioners did not deem that to be problematic.

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