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Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule

Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units

Published June 2, 2014

Under the Clean Air Act and President Obama's Climate Change Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Excerpt from proposed text:

Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units

In this action, the EPA is proposing emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing fo ssil fuel-fired electric generating units. Specifically, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, as well as guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve the state-specific goals. This rule, as proposed, would continue progress already underway to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in the United States.

1. Purpose of the regulatory action

This rule, as proposed, would continue progress already underway to lower the carbon intensity of power generation in the United States. Lower carbon intensity means fewer emissions of CO2, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. This proposal is a significant step forward in the EPA and states partnering to reduce GHG emissions in the U.S. The proposal incorporates critical elements that reflect the information and views shared during the unprecedented effort that the EPA has undertaken, beginning in the summer of 2013, to interact directly with, and solicit input from, a wide range of states and stakeholders. This effort encompassed several hundred meetings across the country with state environmental and energy officials, public utility commissioners, system operators, utilities and public interest advocates, as well as members of the public. Many participants submitted written material and data to the EPA as well.

Nationwide, by 2030, this rule would achieve CO2 emission reductions from the power sector of approximately 30 percent from CO2 emission levels in 2005.

This goal is achievable because innovations in the production, distribution and use of electricity are already making the power sector more efficient and sustainable while maintaining an affordable, reliable and diverse energy mix.

This proposed rule would reinforce and continue this progress. The EPA projects that, in 2030, the significant reductions in the harmful carbon pollution and in other air pollution, to which this rule would lead, would result in net climate and health benefits of $48 billion to $82 billion. At the same time, coal and natural gas would remain the two leading sources of electricity generation in the U.S., with each providing more than 30 percent of the projected generation.

Based on evidence from programs already being implemented by many states as well as input received from stakeholders, the agency recognizes that the most cost-effective system of emission reduction for GHG emissions from the power sector under CAA section 111(d) entails not only improving the efficiency of fossil fuel-fired EGUs, but also addressing their utilization by taking advantage of opportunities for lower-emitting generation and reduced electricity demand across the electricity system's interconnecting network or grid.

The proposed guidelines are based on and would reinforce the actions already being taken by states and utilities to upgrade aging electricity infrastructure with 21st century technologies. The guidelines would ensure that these trends continue in ways that are consistent with the long-term planning and investment processes already used in this sector, to meet both region- and state-specific needs.

The proposal provides flexibility for states to build upon their progress, and the progress of cities and towns, in addressing GHGs. It also allows States to pursue policies to reduce carbon pollution that: 1) continue to rely on a diverse set of energy resources, 2) ensure electric system reliability, 3) provide affordable electricity, 4) recognize investments that states and power companies are already making, and 5) can be tailored to meet the specific energy, environmental and economic needs and goals of each state. Thus, the proposed guidelines would achieve meaningful CO2 emission reduction while maintaining the reliability and affordability of electricity in the U.S.A.

Proposal elements

The proposal has two main elements: 1) state-specific emission rate-based CO2 goals and 2) guidelines for the development, submission and implementation of state plans. To set the state-specific CO2 goals, the EPA analyzed the practical and affordable strategies that states and utilities are already using to lower carbon pollution from the power sector. These strategies include improvements in efficiency at carbon-intensive power plants, programs that enhance the dispatch priority of, and spur private investments in, low emitting and renewable power sources, as well as programs that help homes and businesses use electricity more efficiently. In addition, in calculating each state's CO2 goal, the EPA took into consideration the state's fuel mix, its electricity market and numerous other factors. Thus, each state's goal reflects its unique conditions.

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