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Jul 8, 2024

New EPA rules threaten grid reliability

On April 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released four major new regulations for the electric industry, including a rule to cut emissions from power plants. This move will aggravate reliability concerns for electric cooperatives and other utilities nationwide.

“Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), the wholesale power supplier for the 17 local electric cooperatives in Arkansas, is very concerned about the devastating impacts that the proposed EPA’s Clean Power Plan 2.0 will cause to the affordability and reliability of electricity in Arkansas,” said Vernon “Buddy” Hasten, president/ CEO of AECC. “The plan, as proposed, will lead to increased rates for Arkansans while decreasing the supply of reliable, always-dispatchable baseload generation. Demand for electricity continues to rise, while federal policies are forcing the premature retirement of crucial baseload generation resources that drive the economy.”

The power plant rule could force the early closure of electricity generation sources that are available 24/7 and will also impede the construction of new natural gas plants. The timing of these new rules is particularly troubling, as electric utilities face a surge in demand for electricity from factors like transportation electrification and the rapid expansion of data centers to support artificial intelligence, e-commerce and cryptocurrency.

Under the new rule, existing coal-based power plants that plan to operate past the start of 2039 must install carbon capture and storage (CCS) to capture 90% of emissions by 2032. The rule also requires new natural gas plants that operate more than 40% of the time to install CCS and capture 90% of their carbon emissions by 2032. These standards, and their reliance on unproven CCS technology, will undermine electric reliability and impact affordability. In 2023, AECC’s wholesale power generation portfolio included approximately 20% non-fossil resources. The goal of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas is to utilize a Balance of Power to provide Arkansans with reliable, affordable energy in a responsible manner. The proposed EPA rules are simply unlawful, unachievable and unacceptable. The proposed rules will cause overwhelming impact to an already stressed national electric grid and result in further erosion of the level of reliability required to power our nation.

Electric cooperatives understand the need to keep the lights on at a cost local families and businesses can afford. Intermittent technologies must be balanced with generation sources that are always available to ensure a reliable electric grid. The proposed EPA rules will impact the affordability and reliability of electricity. Electric cooperatives deliver power to 42 million Americans. Our top priority is to meet our members’ energy needs, and we must have reliable electricity available to do that.

Read more on the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas’ philosophy on maintaining a portfolio of diverse energy generation resources at

Two coal plants co-owned by AECC — Independence Steam Electric Station (above) near Newark and White Bluff Steam Electric Station in Redfield — will be required to cease operations in 2030 and 2028 respectively, decreasing the supply of baseload generation.

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