The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed its plan to reduce carbon emissions from the nation's power plants by 30% below 2005 levels.

Stacks rise from the coal-fired Salem Harbor Station power plant, which closed on June 1, 2014.

Formally known as "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units", EPA's proposed rule spans 645 pages (PDF).  The so-called Clean Power Plan builds on President Obama's 2013 Climate Action Plan, relying on the agency's authority under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.  Generally, Section 111 provides for the establishment of nationwide emission standards for major stationary sources of air pollution such as power plants.  Current regulations limit power plants' emissions of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution, but there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.


EPA's Clean Power Plan would, for the first time, provide federal regulation of power plants' carbon emissions.  EPA envisions a collaborative process through which federal limits are established for each state, but where states have the flexibility to identify their own path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program.  Each state's carbon emissions limit would be stated as a rate of allowable pounds of carbon emissions per megawatt-hour of electric energy generated.  EPA would set these rates based on a case-by-case evaluation of each state's energy mix -- including its portfolio of generation resources -- and EPA's evaluation of opportunities to reduce carbon emissions.

States would then be free to design a program to achieve those rates in a way that makes the most sense for each state's unique situation, combining diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to create a tailored solution for each state. EPA also envisions collaboration among states, including the development of multi-state plans.  Some states have already organized collaborative programs to reduce the electric power sector's carbon emissions -- for example, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program in the eastern states

If adopted, EPA's rule would require states to submit their plans to EPA for review in June 2016.  But EPA's plan is not yet final.  It first faces public comment through the summer, including public hearings during the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh.  EPA anticipates finalizing its standards in June 2015.

Additional materials, including fact sheets and a regulatory analysis, are posted on the EPA's Clean Power Plan program website.

 

Topics:  Air Pollution, Barack Obama, Carbon Emissions, Clean Air Act, Climate Action Plan, Electricity, EPA, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Power Plants, Proposed Regulation, Utilities Sector

Published In: Energy & Utilities Updates, Environmental Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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