JEA says it will be years before customers affected by new carbon emission regulations

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President Barack Obama released Monday the long-awaited proposed Clean Power Plan.

It is focused on new carbon emission regulations intended to allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require a 32 percent reduction in power plant emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

The concept behind the regulations is to reduce the utility industry’s dependence on coal in favor of cleaner forms of energy such as natural gas, nuclear, solar and wind power.

While those in the public utilities industry, including officials with JEA, have said implementing the new regulations would cause electric rates to increase, they also say it will be years before the regulations are likely to have an effect on how electricity is generated and its cost.

Jay Worley, JEA director of environmental programs, said the community-owned public utility is looking forward to reviewing the entire final rule document, expected to be about 1,600 pages.

He said each state is granted as long as two years to develop a plan to comply with the new standards.

Each state’s plan then will have to be adopted by its legislature before state agencies can enforce the regulations.

“We’re hearing 2022 is the goal year,” said Worley.

A statement released Monday by JEA pointed out that while it, along with Florida’s 33 other public power utilities, is committed to reducing carbon emissions, decisions about supplying electricity are long-term in nature.

Those decisions must be made on the basis of balancing risk on fuel supply and prices, electric reliability, capital investment and the ability to provide affordable energy to customers.

JEA previously estimated the cost to comply with the new regulations at about $1 billion.

The not-for-profit utility also would be faced with retiring early some of its coal-fired generating systems before the capital investment obligation is satisfied.

“Our goal is to make sure it’s equitable,” said Worley. “We want to make sure there’s a balance of benefits and cost.”

At a Clean Power Plan symposium hosted in September by JEA, an attorney who represents the public power industry said the proposed regulations might be difficult to implement.

Approval for state plans could take years, said attorney Jeff Holmstead, head of the environmental strategies group at Bracewell & Giuliani.

He also questioned the federal government’s authority to enforce new, stricter emission standards.

“The Supreme Court has said the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide, but only by implementing programs allowed in the Clean Air Act,” Holmstead said. “This rule will not withstand that test.”

Litigation in the federal courts could postpone advancement of the new regulations, which means it will be years before the tougher emission standards impact the power industry and its customers.

“It’s going to be a journey,” said Worley.

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