Top 5 Energy and Environment - Expanded

Federal regulations will continue to be a primary driver for energy and environment policy in the states for 2015.   Multiple rule proposals from the EPA related to air and water quality will remain at the forefront of conversation as the rules stay on schedule to be finalized in 2015.  Increasingly, the theme of conversation for states in 2015 is true flexibility when it comes to federal, state interaction.  It is a theme that will be tested with not only EPA rules but other federal, state interactions like endangered species and tackling the issue of grid reliability.  The following is a review of the top five issues for states related to energy and environment in 2015.  

#1    Federal Air Regulations

Two new air regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency have states busy analyzing rules, submitting comments and developing plans to comply.

In June 2014, the EPA proposed a rule to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The rule was part of the President’s Climate Action Plan which will require each state states to develop implementation plans to hit an EPA designated carbon reduction number goal. Each state has a different target, with some required to reduce carbon emissions by more than 30 percent, some by less. States have flexibility in meeting their goals and can meet their targets through upgrading current power plant efficiency, switching power plants from coal to natural gas, increasing use of renewable energy sources or improving energy efficiency.  These four options are also knows as the building blocks.  States are required to submit individual or multi-state plans by June 2016.

The EPA received over two million public comments on the rule proposal.  Click on a state below to see a state’s official comments on the proposal.

Click on any state below to be linked to available comments from the state's environmental agency. 

State Comments

(Click on each state to see comments)



See other CSG resources related to the 111(d) Rule

Carbon Emission Plan and the States (article)

A Closer Look at 111d (recorded presentations)

New Clean Air Rules Come with Many Challenges for States, Industry (article) 

States will also be analyzing EPA’s new proposal to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone from the current level of 75 parts per billion to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion. Where the EPA sets the standards will determine how many areas within a state will fall under nonattainment, requiring states to draft state implementation plans to bring those areas back into compliance.  States have made significant progress in lowering ozone levels and many believe, specifically the National Association of Manufactures (NAM), that lowering the standard will have crippling effects to the economy and result in the costliest regulation in U.S. history to implement.  The EPA estimates the cost between $3.9 billion to $15 billon annually depending on whether the standards is set at 70 parts per billion or 65 parts per billion.  NAM’s cost study suggests implementation costs could be upward towards $270 billion annually.

The public comment period for the proposed rule is scheduled to close March 17, 2015.

For Additional Reading:


#2     Grid Reliability

Grid reliability is becoming an increasingly important topic of conversation, especially as new federal regulations cause shifts in the predominant fuels used in America’s power supply. Infrastructure is a key component for grid reliability, whether it be building new supply infrastructure like natural gas pipelines, or optimizing and modernizing existing transmission infrastructure in the wake of increasing use of wholesale and consumer-distributed energy. Security of the physical grid components always has been a concern, but with continued efforts to develop a smarter and more automated grid, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important.

Grid reliability is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Energy.  In 2014, DOE announced more than $10 million for six projects in five states aimed at deploying advanced sensors and monitors to better detect changing grid conditions.   The information will help utilities foresee demand changes and therefore make decisions to prevent outages or quickly restore power. 

The deployment of new technologies is just one way to tackle grid reliability issues.  As needs become understood, states should keep in mind the need to maintain a diversified fuel resources for both power reliability and affordability along with the infrastructure to support the fuel type.

For Additional Reading:


#3   Waters of the United States

In response to two U.S. Supreme Court cases, the Environmental Protection Agency, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a new rule in April 2014, to clarify and define what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule clarifies that most seasonal and rain-dependent streams, as well as wetlands near rivers and streams, are protected. The proposed rule acknowledges other waters may have a connection and would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed rule has raised concern by many in the agriculture community who have been  that the language in the proposal is too broad, encompassing things like ditches and runoff that can change seasonally and increasing the EPA’s current jurisdiction. Rule opponents have launched a full-scale campaign entitled, “Ditch the Rule”, arguing the proposed rule expands EPA’s jurisdiction which potentially gives the federal government more control over land-use decisions. The EPA maintains the scope of jurisdiction has not changed and the three percent increase, roughly 1,500, acres nationwide, is due largely to clarifying the current confusion of assessing “other waters.”

The public comment period closed November 14, 2014.  The public comments can be accessed here.

For Additional Reading:


#4    Endangered Species Act

Conversations about the Endangered Species Act are often localized because a species and the location of its habitat are usually quite specific. Occasionally, a species on the list makes the news because its listing affects industry and jobs—like the Northern spotted owl’s impacts on the Oregon timber industry in the 1990s.

Environmental groups settled a lawsuit in 2011 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which agreed to make a listing determination for 757 species by 2018. The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015 will decide if the greater sage-grouse will be listed as an endangered species. That decision could impact 174 counties in the 11 Western states the bird utilizes as habitat. The grouse’s potential listing has drawn attention because of the potential impacts it could have on land uses like mineral extraction and agriculture.

For Additional Reading:


#5    The Use of Science-Based Decision Making

Policymakers are bombarded by information in today’s ever-connected, fast-paced world. Advances in communication platforms, like social media, have brought a sea change in the public’s ability to access data at unimaginable depths and speeds. This interconnectedness also can pose challenges for state officials trying to solve already difficult issues by adding another layer of complexity to the public policymaking process. As information becomes more available and immediate, the necessity for policymakers to determine and utilize sound science to make decisions is becoming a vital skill in the realm of policymaking.

In 2014 The Council of State Governments published a guide on this topic designed specifically for state officials.  

Click the image below to view the guide: