The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) and Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) entered into the Environmental Partnership Agreement with the goal of sharing ideas and working together to address energy and environmental issues. The purpose of these cooperative efforts is to produce a sustainable and healthier environment in Nebraska.
Nebraska is unique in that essentially 100% of the electricity used by Nebraskans is produced by public power entities. NPPD is the state’s largest electric utility, providing service in all or parts of 86 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. The relationships between the production and use of electricity and environmental issues are significant and affect the citizens of Nebraska in many ways. It was determined that there would be great benefits to developing a forum where issues of common interest could be examined. While issues associated with state and federal regulations are discussed, the primary focus of the partnership is on issues associated with the sustainability of Nebraska.
Partnership team members typically meet four times a year. One of the quarterly meetings is a statewide conference designed for those that produce electricity and the associated regulators. This meeting is known as the “Power Summit,” and its primary focus is to introduce and examine emerging issues. In addition, sessions that have focused on best management practices have proven to be beneficial to participants. The other quarterly Partnership meetings are used to examine ongoing and potential new partnership activities.
Results to Date:
A primary benefit of the partnership has been the joint examination of emerging issues at each meeting. This examination has included everything from development of Brownfield sites to geologic sequestration of carbon; the list of issues that have been discussed is lengthy. An important characteristic of the joint examination of the issues is that they are examined at a time before there are associated regulatory programs. For example, partnership team members had been discussing the handling and disposal of coal ash long before the initiation of EPA’s recent rulemaking. This proactive approach resulted in both organizations developing a strong base of knowledge on the issue, which proved benefits throughout the subsequent regulatory development process.
The partnership has adopted a strong outreach component, and staff from each organization have participated in public events ranging from refurbishing and recycling bicycles and bicycle components to supporting a program on water resources management directed at fourth and fifth graders.
The partnership has been essential in efforts devoted to saving energy at publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants and examining issues associated with the development of anaerobic digestion for the capture and use of methane from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. In both of these efforts, NDEQ has provided environmental expertise and NPPD has contributed energy capture and conservation expertise. Neither of these efforts would have been possible without the joint efforts of partnership team members.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of the partnership has been an increased effectiveness of communication between the respective organizations. Partnership meetings and specific projects have enabled each organization to develop an improved appreciation and understanding of the issues the partnership has examined.