Republican administrations across the country have opposed the Obama administration’s plan to regulate carbon emissions since it was first announced, and North Carolina is no exception.
Last year, Governor Pat McCrory joined eight other governors in a letter that argued the rule would effectively ban coal. North Carolina did not join a lawsuit against the EPA’s first draft, which a federal judge dismissed in June.
But the EPA finalized the rule Monday. The governor’s office quickly released a statement saying it would sue, arguing the rule would raise electricity rates and hurt job creation. The Obama administration has argued the opposite, but the main rationale for the rule is to combat climate change. In the past, Governor McCrory and environment secretary Donald van der Vaart have said they believe the science on that is not settled.
The state Senate is also scheduled to vote Tuesday to block the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources from doing any work to prepare for the plan, until and unless it survives legal challenges.
North Carolina Effect
When the EPA first proposed the rule last year, it required North Carolina to make some of the most severe cuts to power plant emissions in the nation. The finalized rule, released yesterday, puts the state closer to the middle of the pack, with about a 35 percent reduction in power plant carbon emissions from 2012 to 2030. The EPA shifted more of the onus to coal-dependent states.
"The coal units in places like Kentucky and Montana really have to cut their emissions or achieve reductions through some other means," says Brian Murray, director of Duke University’s environmental economics program.
Along with some renewable energy and energy efficiency, the EPA’s plan largely counts on natural gas replacing coal generation. That’s already happening in North Carolina, where Duke Energy’s retired six coal plants in the past three years, and over the next 15 years, plans to build even more natural gas plants.