The EPA Clean Power Plan
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently published its final rule regarding the agency’s Clean Power Plan, which is intended to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Specifically, the Plan requires states, including Montana, to develop plans to reduce carbon emissions from new and existing electric generation facilities and meet the Plan’s targets by 2030. The Plan requires a 47 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in Montana by 2020. That’s the greatest reduction target among the lower 48 states, according to a nationwide analysis.
NorthWestern Energy and its customers have already taken big steps to reduce the amount of carbon in its electricity supply. In Montana, approximately 50 – 60% of our electricity is produced by wind and water, but the power we get from Colstrip is an important part of our overall mix because it’s always there when we need it. If the Clean Power Plan were utility specific, we would already be in compliance with the most stringent Montana standards. In fact, we’d be 22% lower than what the EPA’s final plan directs Montana to achieve. However, the Plan is not utility specific and the State can’t count any of the good work we’ve already done to support renewable energy and energy efficiency. As Montana’s largest electric utility, that’s a huge problem.
NorthWestern asked the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research to study the potential impacts of the Clean Power Plan across Montana. The BBER study looks at the implications of closing the Colstrip generating facilities in southeast Montana as a means of complying with the federal rule. The study conclusions outline the likely losses of jobs and population, declines in the local and state tax base, the impact on businesses statewide and the impact of closure on electric reliability and affordability. The study notes that the EPA rule “is the most significant economic event to occur in Montana in more than 30 years.”
To learn more about the Clean Power Plan and its possible impact on NorthWestern customers, check out the following documents:
NorthWestern and the CPP fact sheet
The BBER Study
NorthWestern Energy's Transmission Impact Study
NWE Recommendations to EPA
NorthWestern has joined a number of other utilities in requesting a stay in the Rule. We requested the state because the Plan and its potential impact on our customers is severe and unfair. Our customers are paying for carbon-free energy supply investments, but the Clean Power Plan ignores these investments through using an arbitrary date prior to which such investments are disregarded. These investments should count.
The stay only suspends, temporarily, the Rule’s deadlines and requirements while the courts considers the merits of the challenges to the Rule. If a stay isn’t granted, then NorthWestern will have to take steps to comply with the Rule, which will be costly. If a stay isn’t granted and the courts ultimately determine that the Rule is invalid, we will have incurred these costs unnecessarily. We want the status quo preserved while the courts sort out the Rule’s legality.
Utility petitioners’ motion to stay volume 1
Utility petitioners’ motion to stay volume 2