EPA Announces Roll Backs To Clean Power Plan; Industry Reacts

Continuing on U.S. President Trump’s campaign promises to revive the coal industry, on Tuesday, August 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to significantly alter the Clean Power Plan (CPP), shrinking some of the emission reduction targets that were set in place under the CPP by former President Obama.

Background: Renewables Help States Meet Clean Power Plan Goals

The new plan, which is called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, removes the nation-wide target for reducing carbon emissions and gives states more authority to set their own rules for coal-fired power plants, encouraging them to run more efficiently. The rule offers guidelines for states to use when developing their own plans. It would also give states the authority to create no rules around coal-fired power plants as long as they explain why they don’t need them.  

The rule also makes changes to the New Source Review permitting program, which in its current form requires power plant owners to seek permits when they plan to make changes to their power plants that might increase carbon emissions.

“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. 

“Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance,” he added.

Trump is expected to announce the plan at a rally in West Virginia on Tuesday evening.

Industry Reacts

Proponents of clean energy technologies are not fans of the new rule.  Dan Lashof, Director at the World Resources Institute said the plan is “backward thinking.”

“We’ve seen a surge in climate action across the U.S., with states, cities, and companies ramping up their commitments to clean energy, and markets delivering new jobs and innovation. Yet, the Trump administration is now trying to put its thumb on the scales to prop up older, dirtier energy sources,” he said in an emailed statement.

“This is backward thinking that will lead to more pollution, more health problems, higher bills, and less security,” Lasof added.

The director of the lobbying group for the energy-intensive mining association believes the new rule is a step in the right direction. Hal Quinn, President and CEO of the National Mining Association said in a press release that the replacement rule shows that the EPA “has returned to a lawful framework for regulation of power plant emissions,” adding that the proposal reflects the same constructs that were set forth in the Clean Air Act.

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, criticized the plan for not following the law, which requires EPA to adopt the ‘best system of emissions reductions.’

“The EPA has instead opted for the ‘lamest system of emissions reduction,’” he said, adding that the changes to the New Source Review permitting program could have implications on the health of U.S. citizens.

 “This proposal would also result in more pollution from nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other harmful pollutants. That health burden will likely fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color,” he said.

Last December at POWER-GEN, Emily Fisher of the Edison Electric Institute offered her thoughts on the current administration’s view on energy and power plants. Watch the video below.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing. More information including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice and a fact sheet are available at the EPA website.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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