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December 25, 2014
Principal Marc Chupka Featured in New York Times article on New EPA Formula to Cut Carbon Emissions

Brattle principal Marc Chupka has been featured in an article from the December 25, 2014 issue of The New York Times that discusses a new rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) governing carbon emissions from power plants. Among the most complicated issues is how to treat existing nuclear power plants, many of whom are threatened with shutdowns because cheap natural gas has made their reactors uncompetitive.

The article, “E.P.A. Wrestles With Role of Nuclear Plants in Carbon Emission Rules,” discusses a recent mathematical formula proposed by the agency for evaluating nuclear plants’ contribution to carbon emissions. The agency found that 5.8 percent of existing nuclear capacity was at risk of being shut down for financial reasons and so for states with such nuclear capacity, keeping them running would earn a credit of 5.8 percent toward that state’s carbon reduction goal.

For example, if a state replaced a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant with 5.8 percent, or 58 megawatts, of carbon-free electricity, it would be deemed to be “carbon neutral.” Conversely, a state that kept all its nuclear plants open until 2030 could claim a credit for 5.8 percent toward its carbon reduction goal. At issue is how the 5.8 percent figure for nuclear power plants was determined.

In the article, Mr. Chupka is quoted as saying, “If you have an actual plant that’s subject to premature retirement, some of the work I’ve done with others says that to keep it running is a very cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.” He further notes that most parties, including the EPA, think the 5.8 percent figure is odd: “When a nuclear plant retires, you don’t retire 5.8 percent of the plant.”

The article, in its entirety, is available here.