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Supplemental Comments to EPA on Reliability & the Proposed GHG Regulations for Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

In May 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a package of regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. On November 9, 2023, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held its annual technical conference on reliability. It dedicated the afternoon to assessing whether the Proposed Rule would impact grid reliability. EPA subsequently issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, re-opening its comment period and soliciting comment on whether to include additional mechanisms to address potential reliability issues. 

In these comments, we explain why EPA has engaged in reasoned rulemaking and developed a robust administrative record comporting with its mandate to reduce power sector pollution. EPA has adequately considered energy requirements and designed a rule with multiple compliance flexibilities supporting entities responsible for grid reliability in fulfilling their respective mandates. It remains the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) responsibility to ensure reliable bulk-power system (BPS) operations and to use its corresponding tools to address the wider reliability challenges of the clean energy transition, in coordination with other reliability-related entities.

Our comments specifically explain:

  • FERC has both the mandate, and greatest share of the corresponding tools, to ensure reliability of the Bulk-Power System. FERC will need to coordinate with its governed reliability entities, utilities, state public utility commissions (PUCs), and other state actors to accomplish this goal. Given their respective roles, FERC and these other entities must continue working together to address the wider challenges facing grid reliability during this period of clean energy transition, irrespective of the Proposed Rule’s stringency. Given that EPA has the authority and mandate to reduce GHG emissions that endanger public health, EPA and FERC will also need to coordinate and leverage each other’s expertise and respective tools to accomplish the clean energy transition, as they have done for many years to responsibly manage the power sector. 

  • EPA does not need to reduce the stringency of the Proposed Rule to address reliability concerns. 

    • EPA has appropriately considered resource adequacy and designed the Proposed Rule to provide flexibility for ensuring grid reliability during implementation. 

    • EPA should additionally respond to substantive comments related to grid reliability and coordinate with the other entities responsible for grid reliability during the Proposed Rule’s implementation, but does not have an independent responsibility to ensure grid reliability. 

    • EPA can further discuss how compliance exemptions necessary for reliability could be granted through the Remaining Useful Life and Other Factors (RULOF) process and CAA Section 113(a) administrative orders. 

    • If EPA believes further flexibilities are necessary, it can consider adding a reliability safety mechanism to the final rule and/or requirements for states to assess reliability effects during the state plan process.   

  • FERC and FERC-governed entities, together with state regulatory bodies and vertically integrated utilities, have developed tools to address both extreme weather impacts and clean energy resource integration, including mechanisms to enhance energy resource adequacy, grid capacity expansion, and reliable grid operations. Regulators will continue to refine and supplement these tools in response to the energy transition that is already being driven forward by state policies and planning for grid reliability in light of current extreme weather impacts and decarbonization policies.