EPA reveals carbon emissions targets for tribal lands

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a supporting proposal that sets the carbon pollution reduction targets it expects power plants on tribal lands and U.S. territories to meet.

The supplemental proposal, released on Tuesday, is meant to sit alongside the administration’s signature climate rule, which mandate the nation’s existing fleet of power plants cut carbon pollution 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, Janet McCabe, said the proposal will cover four power plants across three tribal lands, six sources in Puerto Rico, and four sources in Guam.

The agency had said the targets would be issued earlier this year when it unveiled its landmark rule on carbon pollution, which Republicans have characterized as a “war on coal.”

On top of the side proposal, the EPA released additional information on its main carbon rule for states, attempting to offer stakeholders more data for them to consider before the public comment period ends on Dec. 1.

The Notice of Data Availability, sent to the Federal Register on Tuesday, is not meant to provide any indication which way the EPA will go on its final rule.

“These are issues we have gotten a lot of input on,” McCabe said. “It’s not to signal a particular direction we will be going.”

In the notice, the EPA provides more information on three main areas of the rule, McCabe said.

Those include the agency’s building blocks for the standards, the interim goals states are expected to reach during 2020-2029, and the way EPA has calculated the state-specific carbon goals.

On the interim goals, which EPA says will help states reach its final target, industry and other stakeholders argue it is not flexible enough for certain states.

People have argued in comments so far that the more immediate goals set by the EPA under the plan “would force retirements of coal plants that could make unexpected events such as last winter’s polar vortex more challenging to address,” according to the notice issued Tuesday.

When it comes to the methodology recommended by the EPA, those commenting on the rule have pinpointed building block No. 2, which encourages shifting use of coal-fired power plants to natural gas plants.

A number of commenters have argued this block should be more stringent and push natural gas plants, while others argue it should be less stringent, the EPA said.

Concerns over the fairness of each states’ specific reduction goals, have raised questions over whether the EPA should consider “more than a single year” — 2012 — as the baseline for targets, McCabe said.

The EPA provided emissions data from 2010 and 2011 in Tuesday’s notice given the amount of comments on considering a “broader baseline” for targets.

Public comments will be gathered on the administration’s proposal until Dec. 1, and the EPA hopes to finalize the controversial rule by summer of next year.