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California Energy Commission Renews its Commitment to Prevent New Long Term Investments in Dirty Power Plants

Noah Long

Posted December 15, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Solving Global Warming

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This week, the California Energy Commission unanimously approved a petition by NRDC and the Sierra Club to commence a rulemaking to strengthen and clarify CEC regulations on SB 1368, California’s Emissions Performance Standard (EPS).  The EPS, passed in 2006, precludes new long term investments in power plants that release more greenhouse gases than a combined-cycle natural gas power plant.

The petition discusses the magnitude of investments being considered by California Publicly Owned Utilities at coal plants that do not meet California’s emissions performance standard and requests 1) uniform mandatory reporting requirements for all investments under consideration and 2) clear criteria for evaluation of whether those investments are disallowed as new long-term financial commitments.  The Staff supported our petition and the rule making committee will be led by Commissioners Peterman and Douglas.

The CEC has jurisdiction over California’s publicly owned utilities to enforce the EPS.  The action today follows action at the CPUC last year to ensure full enforcement for the investor owned utilities.

The California Municipal Utility Association (CMUA) and MSR--the joint powers authority for Modesto, Santa Clara and Redding--opposed the petition and alternatively requested the Commission include a review of the role SB 1368 now that California has adopted a carbon cap-and-trade rule under AB 32. The Commission accepted this inclusion.  SB 1368 ensures Californian utilities avoid the dirtiest power plants and continues to be a crucial backstop to prevent investments in highly polluting power plants and prevent gaming under the cap-and-trade rule.  Including this item in the rulemaking should provide an excellent public forum to put a spotlight on the continued necessity of the EPS.

So, this holiday season I will be raising a glass to the CEC. While there is hard work ahead, opening a rulemaking on this issue takes courage, and they deserve our support for weighing in.

On another note, yesterday’s meeting started with a fond farewell for Commissioner Boyd who is retiring at the end of his second term and this was his last business meeting. Commissioner Boyd has been at the Commission for over ten years and in public service in California for decades. I’ll be raising a glass to him, as well.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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