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Clean Power Plan Drama in a Nutshell

03/07/16

  02:40:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 648 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change, Solar Policy

Clean Power Plan Drama In a Nutshell

On August 3, 2015, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – an exciting, historic and truly critical step in tackling climate change. Advocates say its policies will create jobs, make our grid more reliable, and our economies more resilient while helping protect all of us against climate change’s worst impacts. The CPP is the heart of Obama’s effort to uphold commitments agreed upon at the Paris COP21 climate conference last December.

What Does the Clean Power Plan Entail?

Cut CO2 Pollution from Power Plants Nationally

Power plants are the largest polluters in the US. They account for one third of all greenhouse gas emissions! We wrote about the controversial carbon standards for NEW power plants put forth by the EPA in December 2014. Obama’s Clean Power Plan takes it a giant step further by forcing all EXISTING coal-fired power plants to cut carbon emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.  

A few points on the controversial rules:

  1. States have plenty of time to comply. Final state plans are not due until 2018 and power plants are not required to comply before 2022.
  2. States decide how to meet their energy goals by developing their own individualized plans.
  3. Inter-state emissions cap and trade systems offer a market-based option for compliance. Trade systems create financial incentives to reduce emissions where the costs of doing so are the lowest and gives clean energy investment the highest leverage.
  4. Flexible, market-based compliance options - including inter-state trading - mean that states can design plans around any anticipated reliability issues. This approach will fuel job growth in renewable energy and other innovative efficient technologies.
  5. States can develop their energy mix while saving money by taking advantage of ever-decreasing renewable energy costs.
  6. Three federal agencies will work together to analyze and coordinate oversight. The EPA does not hold the sole responsibility of oversight. 
  7. States can modify plans if necessary. 

Despite the seemingly fair and flexible terms of the Clean Power Plan, vested interests (including coal and mining groups and a coalition of Republican states) fiercely opposed, stating the regulations are an overreach of the EPA’s power. On February 9th the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay implementation of the CPP until the litigation challenging the Clean Power Plan is addressed. Justice Scalia’s passing doesn’t change anything since a 4-4 vote also stays the implementation until the Federal District Appeals Court makes a decision likely in late 2016.

Experts are confident that the CPP’s contents are on solid legal ground and courts will ultimately uphold it. However, a final decision is unlikely before June 2017 or even into 2018 (depending on when the Supreme Court makes their final ruling after going through the DC Court). These delays only make global progress more and more difficult as all eyes are on the US to set an example by honoring our Paris climate commitments.

While 27 states filed the petition to delay the CPP implementation, eighteen state governors - both Democratic and Republican - have announced an accord to move forward on clean energy solutions regardless. The governors declared that “we recognize that now is the time to embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future,” and that their states “are once again prepared to lead.”

“As the world gets hotter and closer to irreversible climate change, these justices appear tone-deaf as they fiddle with procedural niceties. This arbitrary roadblock does incalculable damage and undermines America’s climate leadership. But make no mistake, this won’t stop California continuing to do its part under the Clean Power Plan.” – California Gov. Jerry Brown

Its leaders like these governors, and many large private businesses who have come out in favor of upholding the Clean Power plan, who seem to understand the gravity of climate change and the many benefits that moving to a clean energy future brings. We hope the alliance of leaders in politics and the private sector continues to grow and soon will outnumber those that back the interests of dirty energy!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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