A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Thursday said the implementation of four environmental rules will likely pose electric “reliability challenges,” though not the full-blown problems Republicans and the utility industry have claimed.
The nonpartisan GAO said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules studied “are not expected to pose widespread concerns” regarding electric reliability. It estimated between 2 and 12 percent of coal-fueled capacity might shut down as a result of the rules. But the report added, “EPA and some stakeholders GAO interviewed indicated that these actions should not affect reliability given existing tools.”
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said the report was a win for the rules’ proponents. “We must address the health and environmental concerns related to the power sector, and this report shows that we can do it responsibly," he said in a statement Thursday.
Still, the report was not a clean victory for the EPA’s defenders.
The report said power-plant operators possess the ability to overcome “reliability challenges,” though doing so in coal-dependent states will be more difficult. The GAO report acknowledged federal coordination needs to improve to evaluate industry progress under the regulations, especially to help power-plant operators meet the rules’ compliance targets.