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EPA Proposes Affordable Clean Energy Rule

The rule establishes emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions at their power plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal-fired electric utility generating units and power plants across the country.

The proposal, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, establishes emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit GHGs at their power plants. The rule replaced the prior administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order 13873, which directed federal agencies to review regulations, the EPA undertook a review of the CPP. Many believed the CPP exceeded EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act, which is why 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops and three labor unions challenged the rule. Additionally, the Supreme Court issued a stay of the rule.   

“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 Andrew Wheeler, EPA acting administrator, in a statement. “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.”

“EPA has an important role when it comes to addressing the CO2 from our nation’s power plants,” said Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, in a statement. “The ACE rule would fulfill this role in a manner consistent with the structure of the Clean Air Act while being equally respectful of its bounds.”

According to the EPA, the proposal will work to reduce GHG emissions through four main actions:

  1. ACE defines the “best system of emission reduction” for existing power plants as onsite, heat-rate efficiency improvements.
  2. ACE provides states with a list of “candidate technologies” that can be used to establish standards of performance and be incorporated into their state plans.
  3. ACE updates the New Source Review permitting program to further encourage efficiency improvements at existing power plants.
  4. ACE aligns regulations under CAA section 111(d) to give states adequate time and flexibility to develop their state plans.

The proposed rule is informed by more than 270,000 public comments that EPA received as part of its December 2017 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. 

EPA’s regulatory impact analysis for this proposal includes a variety of scenarios. Key findings include:

  • EPA projects that replacing the CPP with the proposal could provide $400 million in annual net benefits.
  • The ACE Rule would reduce the compliance burden by up to $400 million per year when compared to CPP.
  • All four scenarios find that the proposal will reduce CO2 emissions from their current level.
  • EPA estimates that the ACE Rule could reduce 2030 CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 percent from projected levels without the CPP—the equivalent of taking 5.3 million cars off the road. Further, these illustrative scenarios suggest that when states have fully implemented the proposal, U.S. power sector CO2 emissions could be 33 to 34 percent below 2005 levels.

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) issued the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s decision to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan:

“The Trump Administration’s ‘polluters-first’ proposal to gut the Clean Power Plan is just as reckless as expected.

“As our nation is seeing, climate change is fueling a surge in hurricanes, wildfires and flooding, costing lives and billions of dollars in damage. By originally establishing the Clean Power Plan in 2015, President Obama had put America on track to invest in renewable energy and curb carbon emissions.

“It is a bitter irony that as the harrowing effects of climate change increasingly prevail, the Trump Administration continues to abandon the progress our nation has made in addressing this crisis. Tragically, the proposal announced today is the latest in a series of actions proving this Administration is more focused on pleasing big oil and coal than protecting America’s children, families and future.

“As a nation, we are morally obligated to care for our planet by taking every necessary measure to fight the devastating consequences of climate change.”

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.

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