The Clean Power Plan: What it means for you

The Obama administration and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out the Clean Power Plan this week, which establishes new regulatory standards for carbon-producing power sources while promoting the rapid deployment of renewable power from technologies like wind and solar.

The text of the Plan is, itself, a bit unwieldy: At more than 1,500 pages, you probably don’t have time to leisurely thumb through it while you drink your morning coffee. So what does the Clean Power Plan mean for you? Here are some of the key tenets.

What the Clean Power Plan is

The Plan is a set of environmental standards developed under the Clean Air Act, which is a Congressional act that charges the EPA with creating standards that reduce the atmospheric pollutants that affect public health.

What the Clean Power Plan does

The most widely discussed feature of the Plan is that, for the first time, the EPA will place limits on the carbon emissions that power plans are allowed to produce. But more generally speaking, the Plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 from 2005 levels, and to do so by 2030. Achieving this goal means reducing emissions from power plants, but it also means

  1. Increasing deployment of renewable energy production facilities.
  2. Improving energy efficiency and reduce pollutant emissions from commercial vehicles like trucks, vans, and buses.
  3. Improving energy efficiency in industrial facilities, commercial buildings, and residential structures.

The implementation of these goals is done at the state level, and each state is provided a relatively flexible scheme for achieving them. That’s because each state uses different power technologies in different proportions, and a strict, one-size-fits all approach would place some states at a disadvantage relative to others. Currently, states have until September of 2016 to submit plans outlining how they will meet the standards established under the Clean Power Plan, or to file for an extension.

When the Clean Power Plan does it

The schedule for implementing the Plan is aggressive, with all provisions slated for completion within the next fifteen years. Following is a rough timeline that lays out some of the key milestones.

  • States submit their plans for implementing the Clean Power Plan.
  • New fuel economy standards will apply to heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Wind and solar electricity generation will double relative to 2015 levels.
  • Federally subsidized housing will draw 100 MW of its energy demand from renewable sources.
  • The EPA and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Labor, and Transportation will implement a comprehensive methane reduction strategy.
  • The EPA will identify and approve climate-safe chemicals in order to encourage private sector investment. Other chemicals will be prohibited or more tightly regulated as safer alternatives are made available.
  • The federal government will receive 20 percent of its electricity needs from renewable technologies.
  • The federal government’s greenhouse emissions will fall to nearly 70 percent of 2008 levels.
  • The Department of Defense will deploy three gigawatts of renewable energy sources on military installations.
  • New energy efficiency standards for appliances will reduce pollution from these devices by approximately 3 billion metric tons.
  • Overall carbon dioxide emissions in the United States will decrease by more than 32 percent from 2005 levels.

What the Clean Power Plan means for you

Because the Clean Power Plan delegates implementation to the states, the Plan will manifest itself in different ways, depending upon where you live and work. For example, even though the implementation plans are due in September 2016, states can request an extension that postpones the requirement to 2018. States are also required to engage low-income, minority, and tribal communities in the development of their implementation plans. Finally, the EPA is providing its own federal plan, which can serve as a model for state plans.

Like most government regulations, the Clean Power Plan is incredibly complex and its applications and implications are still developing. Our Air Permitting team will continue to follow the progress of this regulation and any new ones that may affect the air permitting process for your new or existing facility.