EPA Head: Alaska ‘Uniqueness’ Could Mean Immunity From CO2 Rule

The EPA is working on a Clean Air Act regulation that would require Alaska to lower the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from power plants by 26 percent. But  EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy today said her agency will seriously consider exempting the state entirely.

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The EPA says it’s giving states a lot of latitude in deciding how to achieve their targets. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, though, said at a hearing in Washington today that no about of flexibility will make the rule workable in Alaska. Alaska’s limited grid is unconnected to any other states’, so some of solutions Lower 48 states might employ aren’t available. McCarthy told the senator she understand that.

“We find ourselves often talking about the uniqueness of Alaska,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said the state’s request for an exemption would get “very serious consideration.” She said the EPA has left itself every ability to give such passes when appropriate, and said the senator should be “heartened” that the EPA wrote the rule in a way that acknowledges states like Alaska that have exceptional circumstances.

In Alaska, the rule applies to five power plants on the Railbelt grid. Critics say it would drive up rates in Fairbanks, which depends in part on a coal plant. But energy efficiency advocates argue Alaska could substantially cut emissions with incentives to lower consumer demand and improve the infrastructure of the grid. The latter is an expensive proposition the state has been considering for years.