By - Michael Drost

EPA’s final Clean Power Plan even more ambitious than anticipated

Energize Weekly, August 5, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the final version of its highly anticipated Clean Power Plan this week, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electric power sector by 2030. The rule is an even more ambitious plan than the draft proposal released by the EPA last year, and is considered the most significant federal action to combat climate change in U.S. history.

The rules call for a 32 percent reduction in C02 emissions from U.S. power plants over 2005 levels by 2030. That’s a strengthened version of the original proposal released last June, which called for a 30 percent reduction. In other changes, the rules will allow states more time to comply with the mandate, giving them until 2022 to begin adhering to the new standards instead of 2020, while also requiring utilities to use more renewable energy than was proposed previously.

“Our country’s clean energy transition is happening faster than anyone anticipated—even as of last year when we proposed this rule,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “The accelerating trend toward clean power, and the growing success of energy efficiency efforts, mean carbon emissions are already going down, and the pace is picking up.”

The regulation would allow states to come up with their own plans in order to come into compliance, while imposing a federal model on power sectors in states that do not create their own plans. The model would encourage participation in a regional cap-and-trade emissions program, which rewards

Advocates for the fossil fuel industry and some utilities have opposed the rules, saying they will hurt the economy and will result in job losses in the coal industry. Lawmakers and officials from coal-heavy states such as Kentucky and West Virginia have lambasted the measures, and have threatened to launch legal challenges.

“Once the EPA finalizes this regulation, West Virginia will go to court, and we will challenge it,” said West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey, according to the New York Times.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) urged state officials earlier this year to refuse to comply with the regulation, arguing that it was “probably illegal.”

“Don’t be complicit in the administration’s attack on the middle class,” McConnell said in an op-ed for the Lexington Hearld-Leader. “Think twice before submitting a state plan — which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits — when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won’t be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism.”

Other industries have been more supportive, with 365 businesses and investors including eBay, New Belgium Brewing, Nestle, Schneider Electric, and Staples writing to the National Governors Association to strongly support the new rules.

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