Head-Scratcher Proposal Threat To Reliability


Steve Freese
President and CEO

Occasionally, I see a proposal and scratch my head and wonder why on earth did someone ever think that idea up? Well, I have one that I would like to share with you this month. You can read about it in more detail on page 10. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units.

Decreasing emissions is a laudable goal, but as you will find after reading the Power Struggle feature on page 10, the technology they are proposing to accomplish it seems to come out of a science-fiction movie. This required technology is clean hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, which are promising technologies but are not commercially available in the U.S. Consequently, they have also not been adequately demonstrated, which is a requirement of the Clean Air Act.

You might ask what does “adequately demonstrated” mean. Simply stated, no units are currently meeting what the EPA proposes with either technology. The EPA is throwing this idea to limit greenhouse gas emissions against the wall to see if it will stick.

I wrote to the EPA under their comment period, sharing that the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association believes the proposed rules contain unrealistic and unachievable timelines. The compliance deadlines endanger new and existing natural gas plants and all but ensure coal units will shut down. It is unlikely that the infrastructure could be put in place due to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s permitting process, cost, supply-chain challenges, public opposition, and land ownership/access.

Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives believe the proposed rules threaten baseload electricity production, reliability, and affordability. We believe the EPA should withdraw the proposed regulations in their entirety.

Also of note: As I was working on submitting the comments, I came to realize that the EPA only accepts comments electronically, and that raised significant red flags for me since, according to Governor Tony Evers’ Task Force on Broadband 2023 report, approximately 10.7% of Wisconsin households and business lack basic broadband service and 20.1% lack access to high-speed broadband service. That means a significant proportion of the state’s residents faced barriers in submitting comments if they wanted to. When you look at the map of the unserved and underserved areas, it is primarily rural Wisconsin, where we live and work.

Congress recognized the need for rural areas to have access to the internet when it passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which included a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable and reliable high-speed internet access in communities across the U.S. to address the digital equity and inclusion needs in our communities. I find it fascinating that Congress understands how rural America deserves access to the internet and how tone-deaf the EPA is for rural residents and their ability to share their concerns with the agency.