A division emerged between federal and state environmental regulators this week, with Pennsylvania urging the US Environmental Protection Agency to revise impending CASPR rules or face new strains on the electricity grid.

Pennsylvania on Wednesday urged the EPA to make further revisions to its Cross State Air Pollution rule, which the state said would reduce the use of waste coal by power generators and drive up their costs.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection said the rule, due to be implemented on Jan. 1, 2012, would require power plants that burn waste coal to install costly pollution-control technology that would in turn do little to improve air quality.

That could force operators to retire the plants if the cost becomes too great, reducing power supplies at a time when the industry’s ability to meet customers’ needs while complying with environmental regulations, is being called into question.

“EPA fails to understand or fully analyze the potential effect of its onslaught of new rules on the reliability of the electric grid,” said DEP Secretary Mike Krancer, in a statement.

Serving Those Down Wind

The Cross-State rule would require power plants in 27 states including Pennsylvania to make significant reductions in emissions that contribute to ozone and fine-particle pollution in downwind states such as New Jersey and Delaware.

Combined with other federal regulations, the rule could contribute to strains on the electric grid because of plant retirements, the DEP said. It called on the EPA to address its concerns with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and regional transmission organizations such as PJM Interconnection.

An EPA spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation said in a November 28 report that bulk power reliability could be hurt by four new EPA regulations, including the Cross-State rule, and another to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The U.S. Senate in early November blocked an effort by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul to defeat the rule.

Cleanup Is Complex

Pennsylvania is seeking an exemption from the rule for power plants that burn the millions of tons of waste coal left over from the peak of the state’s coal industry. Being forced to comply would increase generators’ costs and impede the cleanup of waste coal that can produce acid-mine drainage, said DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday.

The state also wants to delay implementation of the rule until 2014, as originally planned by the EPA before it changed the effective date to 2012.

Sunday said the original rule contained errors, including the confusion of megawatts with gigawatts, which in turn prompted 11 state governors to call on the EPA to re-propose the measure, and resulted in revisions being made.

“It’s not surprising that EPA’s continued rush to judgment on all fronts, which is driven by litigation deadlines instead of science, is causing an assortment of errors,” Krancer said.

The DEP says the rule may violate the cooperative federalism mandates of the Clean Air Act, which allow states to govern within their own borders.