President Obama & EPA Unveil Clean Power Plan

On August 3, 2015, President Barack Obama and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a new Clean Power Plan, which will set state targets for power plant carbon emissions.  The Plan is designed to reduce emissions in order to combat climate change.  From an August 3 White House Fact Sheet:

Today at the White House, President Obama and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will release the final Clean Power Plan, a historic step in the Obama Administration’s fight against climate change.

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the West to record heat waves – and sea level rise are hitting communities across the country. In fact, 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the first 15 years of this century and last year was the warmest year ever. The most vulnerable among us – including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Taking action now is critical.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. We already set limits that protect public health by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, but until now, existing power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted.

The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal. By setting carbon pollution reduction goals for power plants and enabling states to develop tailored implementation plans to meet those goals, the Clean Power Plan is a strong, flexible framework that will: – Provide significant public health benefits – The Clean Power Plan, and other policies put in place to drive a cleaner energy sector, will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. The Clean Power Plan will also avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.

An August 3, 2015, Baltimore Sun article detailed the mixed reaction the plan has received in Maryland:

Obama’s plan drew praise from Maryland’s Democratic members of Congress and from environmentalists, who said federal action on power plant emissions to address climate change is long overdue.

But Republican lawmakers and the coal industry took a dim view, warning that consumers could wind up paying more for power and that hundreds of miners in Western Maryland could lose jobs. …

Sen. Ben Cardin called the regulations “strong but flexible and fair.” He said they should be especially welcome in Maryland, where 70 percent of residents live in coastal zones.  And he said curbing carbon emissions should also yield reductions in other forms of pollution, which should make the air safer to breathe and help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. …

Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s lone Republican in Congress, predicted EPA’s action would raise energy costs and hurt “hardworking Marylanders who are already struggling to pay their electric bills.” …

The Hogan administration withheld judgment, for now. Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said state officials are reviewing the rule to assess its effect on people, communities, and the business climate.

The article also argued that the state had a head start in meeting its goals through its own climate change efforts and participation in a carbon credit trading program:

For Maryland, the new federal requirements might not be much of an adjustment, at least at first. The state is committed under a 2009 state law to reduce climate-altering pollution to 75 percent of 2006 levels by 2020.

According to the White House, Maryland has reduced its power plant carbon pollution 35 percent since 2008, largely through a compact it joined with eight Northeast states to make electricity generators bid for the right to continue emitting carbon.

The auctions of those carbon “credits” by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have yielded more than $200 million for the state since 2012, with the proceeds providing grants and other incentives for installing solar panels, buying more efficient appliances and helping the poor pay their utility bills, among other things.

EPA Links

EPA Clean Power Plan Main Page (Multiple source documents – Rule Summary, Final Rule, Proposed Federal Plan, etc.)

Toolbox for States

State-Specific Fact Sheets

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Blog “6 Things Every American Should Know About the Clean Power Plan”