The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards has issued a memorandum providing direction to the states interested in seeking a two-year extension of time in which to develop and submit a final plan under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. EPA's Oct. 22 memorandum was in response to questions and feedback from states about what must be included in requests for extension. EPA has indicated that the process for obtaining an extension is "simple and requires only that the state demonstrate it has taken certain preliminary and readily achievable steps towards the development of its plan."

Any filing for extension must include the following:

  1. an identification of the final plan approach (rate v. mass based)
  2. an explanation of why an extension is needed
  3. a description of the state's efforts to obtain public comments on the initial submittal (i.e., the request for extension) and the final plan
  4. if the state plans to participate in the Clean Energy Incentive Program, it must submit a non-binding statement of intent to participate

The memorandum addresses the stakeholder involvement that EPA expects to see before submissions for extension of time and then again prior to submission of a final plan. EPA is requiring that each state adopt a process for "meaningful" public input, including dissemination of information about the initial submittal, public meetings and how the state plans to identify "vulnerable" communities and reach out to those communities.

The memorandum sheds new light on what EPA considers "vulnerable" communities. They include "low-income communities, communities of color and indigenous populations that are most affected by, and least resilient to, the impacts of climate change, and are central to our community and environmental justice considerations." For many electric cooperatives, this is an apt description of the communities they serve.