Branstad block environmental regulations

Gov. Terry Branstad Photo By Washington Times

Gov. Terry Branstad issued an executive order preventing the Iowa Department of Natural Resources from implementing regulations passed the Environmental Protection Agency aimed to limit emissions of diesel electric power generators. Branstad signed Executive Order 72 on Monday, aimed to override regulations that would require retrofitting generators resulting in high implementation costs.

In his executive order, Branstad cited the potential problems with the installation of expensive new catalytic filters that “imposes unnecessary and crippling costs on small Iowa municipal utilities” that would the transfer to the consumer and lead to a spike in utility rates.

The National Environmental Standards for Air Pollutants would apply to generators that employ Rotary Internal Combustion Engines that utility companies use in order to supply electricity during peak hours when they cannot purchase or produce enough power to prevent brownouts or blackouts. NESHAP for RICE is intended to limit the production of ozone and smog that comes from burning diesel fuel.

“They’re trying to set a standard so that they can try to make sure that those kind of engines have some kind of performance standard relative to emissions,” said Brian Trower, assistant director of electric services for Ames Utilities.

However, Trower was unsure as to whether the regulations had merit because many of the generators do not operate full time.

“The amount of pollution coming from them is minimal because they don’t run much,” he said. “It’s just the EPA trying to make sure that there aren’t a lot of engines out there that are polluting a lot.”

In most instances, diesel-powered generators are used less than an hour a year for testing and maintenance, but some function more frequently.

Unlike in the city of Ames, excessive use is especially prevalent in smaller communities that purchase their electricity from larger entities and are generally more dependent on backup generators.

The regulations were later amended to exclude generators that operate less than 15 hours per year in order to spare other infrequently used facilities.

“We stand at the opposite end of things,” said Leland Searles, air quality program director of the Iowa Environmental Council. “The council feels that these are necessary with a few exemptions, but we recognize that it is important to recognize certain exemptions that Branstad stated in his executive order.”

However, Searles was skeptical as to whether the executive order would be effective. He stated that, because the original regulations were imposed by the federal government, they would simply be implemented at a later date through federal, rather than state entities.

Searles, is also much more concerned about the potential health risks associated with the pollution from the burning diesel fuel. He was unsure as to whether the initial costs of the generators would outweigh the potential health costs that result from the smog.

“Typically these diesel generators do not operate constantly,” Searles said. “The rule applies to them because they feel that it is necessary to curb the emissions from the generators, so the IEC feels that these rules are a good idea to protect public health.”

Branstad did not reference the health problems associated with the generators, but was confident in the financial benefits of vetoing the RICE standards.

“This administration is serious about removing burdensome regulations,” Branstad said in a prepared statement. “The economic impacts of administrative rules need to be considered when being adopted.”

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