EPA Clean Power Plan – A Step in the Right Direction?

By: Kate Gibson and Amy Bauer

What is the Clean Power Plan? 

On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, proposed a plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. This is on the heels of a 2009 determination by EPA, which stated that greenhouse gas pollution leads to long lasting changes to the climate that can have negative effects on human health and the environment. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas pollutant, and the electric power sector accounted for one-third of the U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions in 2012.

What are goals of the Clean Power Plan? 

Nationwide, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels. The proposal will also cut pollution that leads to soot and smog by over 25 percent in 2030. The Clean Power Plan is intended to maintain an affordable and reliable energy system, while reducing pollution and protecting human health and the environment.

The intent of the Clean Power Plan is to provide a consistent national framework with flexibility for states to implement state-specific goals individually or in regional groups. EPA is not prescribing a specific set of measures for states to put in their plans, only to meet the target goal by 2030 with meaningful reductions by 2020. Each state’s goal is an emission rate, which EPA will issue by June 1, 2015. States must submit plans by June 30, 2016.

What are the potential impacts of the Clean Power Plan? 

States have differing CO2 emissions goals based on many factors, which are not completely understood by the general population. Critics worry about negative effects on the economy (e.g., job loss), especially in states where coal-fired plants are prevalent. Because this is not a one-size-fits-all plan, some states, such as Ohio, where coal-fired plants account for nearly 70 percent of its energy, could see change in how plants operate. For example, plants can choose to improve efficiency or switch to natural gas.

On the other hand, others indicate positive change in the works in the form of job creation (e.g., development of renewable energy) and household savings on electric bills. Energy companies will need to conduct a thorough evaluation of potential compliance costs (e.g., capital upgrades for higher efficiency and pollution reduction) and the impact on customer’s bills. Other views suggest that these regulations may not be as daunting as first thought, considering that emission cuts are not below current levels (rather 2005) and emissions have been trending down from the recession and other factors.

What are the potential impacts of the Clean Power Plan? 

EPA scheduled public hearings on the proposed rules for July 29 – 31, 2014 in Atlanta, Denver, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh. If you attend a hearing or wish to join the conversation, comment here on our blog. What do you know about the Clean Power Plan? How will your state and/or industry be impacted? What changes do you see forthcoming? Will investing in green and renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar or even increased use of nuclear energy, become more mainstream?

You can also comment on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule by October 16, 2014. More information can be found at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule

Kate Gibson is an experienced environmental scientist with expertise in environmental, health and safety regulatory compliance, environmental due diligence, insurance, and site remediation. For over 26 years, she has managed and conducted regulatory environmental compliance audits and multi-site environmental due diligence projects. Kate has over 20 years of experience in supporting insurance companies and claimants and in conducting site investigation and remediation projects…
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Amy. Bauer has 15 years of experience conducting and managing environmental site assessments, regulatory compliance audits, environmental investigations, and regulatory compliance support….
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