With a partial veto from Governor Inslee on April 1, 2016, Washington State has enacted legislation that may help Puget Sound Energy (PSE) recover costs associated with the decommissioning and remediation of its interest in the Colstrip coal-fired plant, which is located southwest of Billings, Montana. PSE owns half of the older two units of the Colstrip plant. Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (SB) 6248 expressly authorizes the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), after a hearing, to allow a utility to “to place amounts from one or more regulatory liabilities into a retirement account” for decommissioning and remediation costs for the older two units. Thus the WUTC now has the express authority to allow PSE to use certain tax credits to help cover decommissioning and remediation costs at the Colstrip plant instead of returning those tax credits to customers over time.
EPA’s recently issued Clean Power Plan (“CPP” or “Plan”) affects every state differently. The Plan has a decidedly nationwide impact—reducing the United States’ power plant greenhouse gas emissions 32 percent by the year 2030. But the Plan functions entirely on a state-by-state level, treating each state in a different way based on its unique emissions profile. In this way, the Plan seeks to harness the power of federalism to achieve its ambitious goals.
While the target-based approach is in some ways similar to the structure of EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), the CPP has revised and reordered certain elements, and has modified the targets for carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions required by individual states. Although NAAQS are set on a nationwide basis, under the CPP every state has a different carbon target based on a calculus that includes the state’s emissions profile and energy mix. Thus, some states (like Montana and West Virginia) are subject to greater emission reductions than other states (like Idaho and Maine). And while states have some flexibility to determine how to meet their targets, the devil will be in the details, as evidenced by EPA’s compliance pathway chart.