The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its Clean Power Plan proposal as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The proposal aims to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants to 30 percent below 2005 carbon emission levels by 2030. On top of reducing carbon emissions, the proposed rule also aims to cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent by 2030. The proposed rule would “maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations,” according to an EPA fact sheet.
The proposal will be implemented via a state-federal partnership with the states identifying the best plan to move forward. This is being done under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which requires EPA to identify the best system of emission reduction (BSER) that is available to limit pollution. State goals will be rate based, which means the rate is equal to “CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants in pounds (lbs) divided by state electricity generation from fossil-fuel fired power plants and certain low-or zero-emitting power sources in megawatt hours (MWh).” Each state’s goal is different as they have their own unique mix of emissions and power sources, and will therefore choose a combination of measures that best reflects its circumstances and policy objectives, according to the EPA state goal fact sheet. While states can formulate their own plans, they also have the option of working together to develop multi-state plans to meet their goals. The proposal provides an “interim goal” that states must meet on average over the ten year period from 2020-2029, and a “final goal” that the state must meet in 2030 and beyond. Vermont and Washington, DC are not included in the proposed rule as they do not have fossil-fuel fired power plants. States have until June 30, 2016 to submit their implementation plans, however EPA will allow up to a one year extension for individual state plans and a two year extension for multistate plans.
The process to develop the proposed rule involved the EPA hearing from more than 300 stakeholder groups including states, utilities, labor unions, NGO’s and industry so that EPA could determine what programs were already working to reduce carbon pollution. EPA will accept comment on the proposed rule for 120 days after its publication in the Federal Register. The agency will also hold four public hearings on the rule during the week of July 28 in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. For more details on the proposed rule, visit EPA’s Clean Power Plan website.