In a move that will not only regulate US climate change emissions but will also provide bargaining leverage in international talks, President Obama placed climate change regulation back on the international agenda when he announced the Clean Power Plan proposal, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday.
The proposal cuts, for the first time, carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
The EPA calculates that, by 2030, these steps will:
- Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year
- Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit
- Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
- Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.
The proposal has two main elements: 1) state-specific emission rate-based CO2 goals and 2) guidelines for the development, submission and implementation of state plans.
While the proposal lays out state-specific CO2 goals that each state is required to meet, it does not prescribe how a state should meet its goal. Clean Air Act section 111(d) of creates a partnership between the EPA and the states under which the EPA sets these goals and the states take the lead on meeting them by creating plans that are consistent with EPA guidelines
The proposal provides those guidelines and gives states the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their individual situation.
States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs. It allows them to work alone to develop individual plans or to work together with other states to develop multi-state plans.
Also included in the proposal is a flexible timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency—with plans due in June 2016, with the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. States that have already invested in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs during the compliance period to help make progress toward meeting their goal.