Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
“After reviewing the CPP, EPA has proposed to determine that the regulation exceeds the Agency’s statutory authority,” an agency statement says. “Repealing the CPP will also facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources, in keeping with the principles established in President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence.”
Billed at the time as the most sweeping action by the government to date to combat climate change, in June 2014 the EPA unveiled tough new rules intended to curb emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The proposed Clean Power Plan, for the first time, sets state-by-state targets for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants. By 2030, the EPA wants to cut carbon emissions from the power sector, nationwide, by 30 percent below 2005 levels, equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year. The plan also aims to cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent.
As it does with other initiatives under the Clean Air Act, the EPA wwas to set reduction targets for each state and leave it to them to design and execute a strategy to meet those goals.Targets, which vary, are based on numerous factors, including the number of on-line plants each hosts. Washington, for example, has a higher emission reduction goal than other states because its sole coal-burning power plant is expected to go offline by 2020. State initiatives were also factored in included improvements in efficiency at carbon-intensive power plants, programs that spur private investments in low emitting and renewable power sources, and programs that help homes and businesses use electricity more efficiently.
Each state was given the flexibility to design a program to meet its goal in a manner “that reflects its particular circumstances and energy and environmental policy objectives” and can collaborate on multi-state efforts. States that fail to provide an EPA-approved reduction plan will have one imposed upon them by the agency. To date, 47 states have utilities that run demand-side energy efficiency programs, 38 have renewable portfolio standards or goals, and 10 have market-based greenhouse gas emissions programs.
The EPA estimated that the rule will cost as much as $8.8 billion annually, but argues that cost will be offset with eventual economic benefits as high as $93 billion. Those savings are attributed to preventing up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days.
Even before the proposal was announced, industry groups were lining up to criticize the EPA's ambitions and lawsuits are already percolating. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in stark contrast to the government's numbers, estimated that the rule could result in an average annual drop of $51 billion in economic output and 224,000 fewer jobs every year through 2030.
The CPP was put on hold in February 2016, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the rule.
“The Obama administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far with the CPP that the Supreme Court issued a historic stay of the rule, preventing its devastating effects to be imposed on the American people while the rule is being challenged in court,” Pruitt said in a statement. “We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate. Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”
Pruitt added that CPP appears to be inconsistent with the Clean Air Act
The EPA has delivered the new NPRM to the Federal Register for publication. Upon publication, the public will have 60 days to submit comments.
The repeal package includes a “preamble,” which lays out the proposed legal interpretation, policy implications, and a summary of the cost-benefits analysis of the proposed repeal. The Trump administration estimates the proposed repeal could provide up to $33 billion in avoided compliance costs in 2030.