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Policy Perspectives


The Trickle-Up Effect State regulations often precede federal rules


Several environmental issues stirring national


debate that have an impact on electric cooperatives— renewable portfolio standards (RPS) for electric utilities, hydraulic fracturing of shale gas reserves, haze regulations, and more—once had taken on state- level or regional importance before they reached Congress. For example, legislative and regulatory oversight of


hydraulic fracturing (also called fracking) for natural gas found in shale deposits has been primarily a state concern—whether to approve drilling permits and how to alleviate local road and infrastructure damage. Then claims surfaced connecting fracking to groundwater contamination and increased methane emissions. While bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress to promote shale gas extraction, there’s now also a push for federal oversight of these operations. Before (so far unsuccessful) congressional


 debate in Congress a few years ago, 29 states and the District of Columbia had already adopted their own RPS laws that require utilities to add increasing amounts of “clean and green” electricity to their retail power supply mix (ranging from 10 percent to 40 percent) by a certain date (mostly between 2015 and 2030); eight other states have adopted renewable energy goals. Since the economic downturn, congressional debate shifted from an RPS to a broader clean energy standard (CES) that includes renewables (such as wind,  turbines (when replacing coal-burning power plants),  and storage capabilities, and nuclear power. CES proponents plan to renew their push to get Congress to pass legislation this year. Of course, state legislation sometimes mimics


federal trends. In the wake of congressional debate on the role of clean coal technology, several states enacted bills that provide incentives for clean coal generation. Some states have also required utilities to prepare for the addition of carbon capture and sequestration equipment to coal plants.


In other situations, states may develop more


affordable solutions than federal alternatives. A 2011 regulatory battle in North Dakota pitted a state regional haze plan against an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that would have cost consumers an extra $800 million with little to show for the investment. Although North Dakota air quality is consistently


within EPA’s health-based standards, the agency sought to intervene, despite the fact that the state regional haze program provides a reasonable implementation  When Basin Electric Power Cooperative, which generates and delivers power to 135 electric distribution cooperatives in nine states, put its grassroots network into action, EPA backed off efforts aimed at forcing the Roughrider State to impose requirements that would lead to the installation of expensive, but unnecessary, equipment. No matter where environmental legislation gets its


start, it can lead to higher electric bills. Learn about regulatory issues affecting you and Oklahoma, and  lawmakers at www.ourenergy.coop.


WE NEED YOUR HELP.


Senators are drafting climate change legislation NOW, and you can impact the outcome. Climate change legislation should be:


Fair.


 


Climate change legislation needs to recognize regional differences in how electricity is produced.


must keep electricity affordable for all Americans.


Affordable. Achievable.


Climate change goals must be realistic to ensure long-term success.


Go to www.ourenergy.coop to make your voice heard. Any climate change plan


5


OEC News Magazine | March 2012


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