Called a waste of the state’s time by some and a great opportunity to help Louisiana’s poor by others, the state is forging ahead to develop a strategy to meet the federal Clean Power Plan.
Even though the federal plan is under court challenge, the state Department of Environmental Quality held an all-day meeting Thursday to gather views on what it should consider in developing a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide releases from existing power plants.
Despite Louisiana being a party to a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to throw out the Clean Power Plan, DEQ Secretary Chuck Carr Brown said they decided to follow a dual path.
Without leaving the lawsuit, he said, DEQ is now also gathering input in developing the state’s plan to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. “We just think it’s the right thing to do,” Brown said. “We don’t want to be caught flat-footed if this rule ends up being applied.”
A number of speakers, however, encouraged DEQ to stop all work on the Clean Power Plan until the issue is decided by the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the rule Feb. 9 until there is a decision by lower courts.
It’s expected the rule will end up before the Supreme Court, which could uphold it, dismiss it or send it back to EPA for more work, which means the plan states are looking at now may not be the one they need to meet.
Although Entergy has taken large steps in reducing carbon dioxide releases and invested in plans for offsetting emissions, Kelly McQueen, Entergy’s assistant general counsel for environmental matters, said they are opposed to the Clean Power Plan.
“Entergy believes when they finalized the regulation it was beyond their authority,” McQueen said, and she said any work DEQ does to move the state’s planning forward should be limited.
Other speakers were more direct.
“We strongly encourage that Louisiana halt all activity on something that won’t be decided for five years,” said Bill Greener, acting chairman of 60 Plus Association, which describes itself as a conservative alternative to American Association of Retired Persons.
Calling it the “cruel power plan,” Greener pointed to studies that show the federal rule would raise electricity bills.
Other speakers pointed to other reports showing the Clean Power Plan would lower energy prices in Louisiana.
Part of the federal plan focuses on alternative energy development and energy efficiency measures.
“Efficiency turns out to be cheaper than building new (power) generating facilities,” said Khalil Shahyd, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental organization.
Jackie Dadakis, managing partner with Green Coast Enterprises, a New Orleans-based consulting firm, said Louisiana may have some of the lowest energy rates but residents end up with some of the highest electricity bills in the country because their houses are not energy-efficient.
Even no-cost changes in how electricity is used, and when it’s used, in a building can result in large savings, she said.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.