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Clean Power Plan: Building blocks to combat climate change

History was made on August 3, 2015, when President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final Clean Power Plan, a historic step in the Administration’s effort to drive toward a cleaner energy sector and combat climate change. The Clean Power Plan is a broad mix of public policy, regulatory standards, and economic incentives designed to reduce carbon pollution and slow the effects of climate change.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

By requiring reductions in carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants and driving investments in clean energy technologies, the plan will lead to the development of flexible, state-managed plans that use free-market mechanisms, such as emissions trading, to accomplish targeted reduction goals.

With this final energy policy, EPA issued final carbon pollution standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants, and proposed a federal plan and model rule to assist states in implementing the Clean Power Plan.

What is the Clean Power Plan?

Background. In 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution threatens public health and the environment by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent GHG pollutant, accounting for nearly 75% of global GHG emissions and 82% of U.S. GHG emissions.

Power plants represent the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S.

Goals. The new regulatory development aims to achieve the following:

  • Reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 32% from 2005 levels by the year 2030
  • Provide states and utilities with flexibility and the time needed to achieve these pollution reductions, while maintaining cost-effective and reliable power

Highlights. The Clean Power Plan establishes carbon pollution standards for power plants, called CO2 emission performance rates. Under the plan, EPA is establishing interim and final CO2 emission performance rates for two subcategories of fossil fuel-fired electric generating units – coal and oil-fired power plants and natural gas-fired combined cycle plants.

In addition, the EPA will establish interim and final statewide CO2 goals, whereby each state has a different goal based on its mix of affected sources. States will develop and implement plans that require power plants in the state, either individually, in aggregate, or a combination, to achieve the interim CO2 emissions performance rates over the period of 2022 to 2029 and final CO2 emission performance rates by 2030. States may choose between an emissions standard plan and a state measures plan. The final rule also gives states the option of working with other states on a multi-state approach, including emissions trading among affected facilities.

Timing. States are required to submit a final plan (or an initial submittal with an extension request) by September 6, 2016. Final plans must be submitted by September 6, 2018.

About Matt Traister: Matthew Traister, P.E. is a Vice President with OBG and the company’s subject matter expert in air quality. A registered Professional Engineer and leader of OBG’s National Compliance Practice, Mr. Traister has more than 28 years of environmental consulting experience involving air permitting, emission inventory development, and air and odor pollution control design projects.

Matt Traister
(315) 569-7882