The federal Environmental Protection Agency on Monday released its final rules on President Obama’s far-reaching and controversial “Clean Power Plan,” putting the nation on track to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
EPA officials said the plan takes into account the more than 4.3 million comments received from states and stakeholders across the country following the first draft on June 2, 2014, and sets “common sense” achievable state-by-state goals to cut carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
“By 2030, we’ll see major reductions of pollutants that can create dangerous soot and smog, translating to significant health benefits for the American people,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said on the agency’s blog ahead of Monday’s official announcement. “The Clean Power Plan is a historic step forward to give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve.”
ARKANSAS IMPACT, REACTION
Steve Patterson, executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, which supports alternative energies that reduce pollution, said the EPA listened and responded to concerns expressed by Arkansas regulatory officials, electric utilities, and business leaders. The initial Arkansas target of 46% reduction in carbon emissions was reduced to about 37%. (Link here for a PDF of Arkansas’ targets as prescribed by the EPA.)
“Recent investments by Arkansas utilities in advanced energy technologies including wind, solar and energy efficiency are paying off not only in terms of energy savings for customers but now in what appears to be much more achievable carbon reduction targets for the state,” Patterson said in a statement. “In the agency’s final rule, EPA admitted that its final rule is more of a ‘glidepath’ for Arkansas through 2030 rather than the ‘cliff’ that was proposed last year. AAEA is now more confident than ever that the Clean Power Plan’s carbon reduction targets for Arkansas can be achieved while producing lower energy costs and more jobs for Arkansans.”
Despite some relief from initial EPA proposals, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he will work to “fight the final rule,” but also direct state officials to determine compliance methods that are the least costly on ratepayers.
“While I was pleased that the final rule extended the deadline and provided some relief, it is clear that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan could still result in significant electric rate increases for middle-class ratepayers while having a minimal impact on global temperatures. My administration will do everything it can to protect ratepayers,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “This includes continuing to work with the Attorney General and urging Congress to act to protect ratepayers and to continue to pursue litigation in opposition to the burdensome regulation. While we will continue to fight the final rule, we will also work with our industries and consumers to determine a lowest cost option to compliance.”
Continuing, Hutchinson noted: “When it comes to Arkansas’s energy policy, we must take a balanced approach in consideration of safety, reliability, cost-effectiveness and environmental impact. This is why I have directed leadership at the Public Service Commission and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to fully review this rule and develop the best response for our state.”
Hutchinson was one of several governors and state officials to vow to push back against the new EPA rules. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said the new rules will “lead to significant increases in utility costs” in the U.S.
“Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been helping to lead the charge against the White House and the EPA’s overreach. I continue to support his efforts in the courtroom,” Fallin said.
OBAMA: ‘MORAL OBLIGATION’
In a press conference announcing the plan with McCarthy, President Barack Obama spent more than 30 minutes making the case for what he called the most ambitious plan in U.S. history to cut carbon emissions and protect the earth from climate change – calling it a “moral obligation.”
“With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix. It also shows the world that the United States is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change,” Obama said in his live online video conference.
Obama said there will cynics and critics who will say his plan won’t work, will kill jobs, and cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars, and also use “scaremonger tactics” to prevent the historic greenhouse rules from moving forward.
“We have heard these same stale excuses before … but the kind of things you are going to hear are excuses for inaction,” Obama said. “When America faces its tough challenges, America leads the way forward.”
Ahead of Monday’s announcement, the White House press office issued a statement saying the final plan would create strong but achievable standards for power plants that provide flexibility and choices for states and utilities on how to achieve their clean energy future.
Under the plan, each state will have an emission-cutting goal assigned to it and must submit a proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency on how it will meet the target. According to the EPA, mayors in five cities in Arkansas have joined the Mayors Climate Protection agreement, committing to take action in their communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Also according to the EPA, Arkansas, like all states, will have flexibility to meet EPA’s goal by using the energy sources that work best for it and by cutting energy waste. To date, all 50 states have demand-side energy efficiency programs, 37 have implemented renewable portfolio standards or goals, and 10 have adopted market-based greenhouse gas emissions programs.
Arkansas has set a goal to cut electricity consumption by 0.9% in 2015 compared to 2014. EPA’s rule builds on progress already underway in each state and provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet their carbon pollution reduction goals.
Click here to view the EPA’s 1560-page final rules and resources on the Clean Power Plan, and link here to view state-specific “toolbox” and fact sheets, including interim and final carbon dioxide emission performance guidelines for Arkansas, and how the rate-based goals compare to proposed goals.