Murkowski Calls on EPA to Address Electricity Reliability Concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson asking the agency to defer implementation of a stricter federal regulation of power plants, the so-called “Utility MACT” rule, until it receives a full analysis of the rule’s impact on electricity reliability from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We must consider the total impact this rule will have on the electric grid,” Murkowski said. “The reliability of the grid has a direct impact on the quality and cost of electricity, which in turn affects Americans’ ability to affordably power and heat their homes.”

Murkowski called on the EPA to adopt a process that would require “FERC and other entities responsible for overseeing the nation’s bulk power system to go beyond aggregate estimates, to assess the reliability impact of your proposal on a region-by-region basis, and to identify areas where the risk to reliability would be unacceptable.”

“FERC preliminarily estimates that nearly 8 percent of existing generation is ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to be retired as a consequence of the new EPA rules. As noted by the Wall Street Journal, that’s the equivalent of removing the power generation of Florida and Mississippi from the grid,” Murkowski said. “In the current economic climate, we cannot afford to have electric reliability suffer and energy prices skyrocket due to the shuttering of power plants around the country.”

Murkowski’s letter notes that given FERC’s statutory role over electric reliability, for EPA to proceed without a full analysis “would leave a gap in the record which is a hallmark of decision making that courts have found arbitrary and capricious.” Moreover, Murkowski wrote, if reliability threats develop as a result of the implementation of the Utility MACT Rule, without a full analysis, the “consequences would and should fall squarely on EPA.”

Murkowski’s letter to the EPA is attached. The responses from FERC, as well as Murkowski’s original letter to FERC can be found here: http://1.usa.gov/oinBEb.


In May, Murkowski asked FERC to explain what steps the commission was taking to ensure EPA’s new regulations would not adversely affect reliability. FERC’s responses were delivered in August along with a number of FERC documents, including a presentation that shows that at least as early as October 2010, the commission’s staff presented EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality its preliminary conclusions about potential power plant retirements as a result of the EPA’s various pending rulemakings.