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Final EPA plan ‘a much tougher road’ for WV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia faces a requirement for tougher emissions cuts under a final federal rule aimed at curbing greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s power plants, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents and interviews with experts who are reviewing the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan,” released earlier this week.

The EPA’s final rule includes a target reduction in the state’s power plant carbon dioxide emission rate of nearly 37 percent, compared to a proposed reduction of about 20 percent contained in the draft rule that was made public in June 2014.

The increased reduction makes the job of finding a West Virginia-specific compliance plan significantly more difficult, but far from impossible, said James Van Nostrand, a West Virginia University law professor and energy expert who has been studying the issue.

“It’s a much tougher road for us,” said Van Nostrand, who is director of the WVU College of Law’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development. “It’s going to mean more renewables, more co-firing and more energy efficiency.”

Over the past year, Van Nostrand’s center has partnered with the Morgantown consulting firm Downstream Strategies on reports aimed at providing some broad examination of how West Virginia could comply with the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas plan and then spelling out specific compliance paths the state might consider taking.

Among other things, the reports recommended West Virginia officials consider ramped up solar- and wind-power generation, improvements in the efficiency of existing coal-fired power plants, continued growth in the natural gas industry and better programs for utilities to fund energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

Van Nostrand noted that some EPA critics have complained about the fact that the agency’s proposed rule contained widely varying targets among the states…f

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