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Santee Cooper continues to reduce carbon emissions

March 23, 2016   By Jay Hudson in Energy Matters

On Feb. 9, a divided U.S. Supreme Court took extraordinary action to indefinitely stay the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan (CPP). This happened after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request to stay the rule. A 29-state coalition appealed to the Supreme Court, and in an unprecedented move the justices voted 5-4 to order the Obama administration to hold off on implementing the CPP until its legal challenges play out in court.

The regulation, which targets a nationwide reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector, will be on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reviews the plan and any subsequent Supreme Court appeals are over. A hearing at the D.C. Circuit is set for June 2.

Some experts believe that EPA's comments on the Mercury Air Toxics Rule, which was remanded last summer by the Supreme Court for the agency's lack of consideration of compliance costs, may have affected this latest decision. The head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, didn't seem too concerned at the time, implying most utilities had already spent the funds to comply:

"The majority of power plants have already decided and invested in a path to achieving compliance with those mercury and air toxic standards," she said. "So we are well on our way to delivering the toxic pollution reductions that people expected." (The Hill, July 7, 2015)

In the case of the CPP, the rule was stayed even though compliance would not begin until 2022, giving utilities more time to prepare for the tighter regulations. But what's interesting is Santee Cooper's carbon emissions have been on the decline since 2005 (see chart).

The reason? Santee Cooper's board set an ambitious goal in 2007 of generating 40 percent of our energy through non-greenhouse gas emitting sources and energy efficiency projects, and we are well on our way to meeting this goal with a mixture of renewable energy, energy efficiency and expansion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in partnership with SCANA and SCE&G.

Whether or not the rule is ultimate upheld, Santee Cooper has planned for the future.