ATLANTA — Georgia’s utility regulators filed a formal objection to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, and legislators are expected to propose other roadblocks making the federal rule a state issue.

Tuesday, the Georgia Public Service Commission released a copy of comments it filed the day before on the deadline for public input on the EPA proposal. The commission, composed of five Republicans elected statewide, warned that more stringent air-quality standards would be costly for consumers and difficult for power companies to meet.

The commission also complained that the state-by-state standards would be unfair to Georgia.

“With the rules as currently drafted, Georgia is mandated with a 48 percent reduction in its carbon-emission intensity rate, which is well above the 30 percent average required emissions reduction across all states,” according to the 15-page comments.
Georgia had already begun shifting to cleaner generation of power through the construction of two reactors at Plant Vogtle, but the EPA assumes the reactors are already in operation and is calling for even greater reductions in emissions.

Environmental groups in the state filed their own comments in favor of the proposal, including GreenLaw, an advocacy law firm based in Atlanta.

“These are achievable goals for our state,” says GreenLaw attorney, Ashten Bailey. “The EPA should not weaken these proposed targets because solar and wind have proven to be cost-effective energy resources for Georgia, and there is significant opportunity to expand energy efficiency resources.”

At the same time, state legislators are expected to introduce bills recommended by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which would give the General Assembly a veto over any regulations the state Environmental Protection Division drafts to implement the federal standards.

Other ALEC-recommended bills would establish a panel of scientists to review state implementation strategies and to halt enforcement if lawsuits are pending, according to David Doniger with the Natural Resources Defense Council advocacy in Washington.

“What they’re really trying to do is raise as many barriers to implementation as possible,” he said.

ALEC is meeting this week in in Washington to showcase these model bills, Doniger said. The EPA hasn’t announced a firm date for approval of its Clean Power Plan because it is sifting through the thousands of comments, pro and con, it has received about the proposal.

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