Utilities Say Collaboration, Creativity Key To Clean Power Plan

Feb 6, 2015

The Jim Bridger Power Plant, which is co-owned by Rocky Mountain Power.

A senior executive at one of the nation’s largest power companies says Wyoming needs to be working on solutions for compliance with the Clean Power Plan. The plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector nationwide by 2030.

Wyoming state agencies have said it’s unworkable and Governor Matt Mead has called on the Environmental Protection Agency to scrap the rule. But a number of speakers at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority’s winter meeting urged state officials to come up with creative solutions to the rule. Among those was Cathy Woollums, chief environmental counsel at Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which owns a dozen utilities across the country, including Rocky Mountain Power.

“If the state wants to push back against the plan, that’s okay, but we really do have to have a backup plan because if not, we will be caught in a situation where we don’t have any options," she said. "And that’s the worst of all positions to be in.”

Woollums added that the 2030 targets are achievable and urged Wyoming to collaborate with other states to meet them. That was also the message from Trevor Houser, director of energy research at the Rhodium Group, a consulting firm. His firm’s analysis shows Wyoming can actually meet the targets -- if the state gets credit for renewable energy produced here. But he says that will likely require negotiating with states that consume Wyoming’s wind power, like California.

“States that are inclined to begin that conversation earlier are more likely to be able to strike a deal where they can get some of those credits for use in their own compliance,” he said.

The Clean Power Plan is still being finalized and is due out in June.