EPA’s Clean Power Plan Celebrates Its First Birthday


Today, the hashtag #CleanPowerPlan is trending on Twitter. That’s because, exactly one year ago, on Aug. 3, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final version of its historic climate change initiative.

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) establishes the first-ever regulations to cut carbon pollution from existing U.S. power plants. Although many state and local governments, as well as renewable energy stakeholders and environmental groups, strongly support the plan, the CPP has been mired in controversy since its very inception.

As soon as the EPA formally published the final CPP in October 2015, a coalition of states slapped the agency with a joint lawsuit. Opponents claim, among other things, that the federal initiative illegally gives the EPA too much power and that the new standards will hurt the coal industry.

In a shocking move earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the CPP’s implementation until the lawsuit is sorted out. Nonetheless, the Obama administration and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy remain confident that the CPP will prevail and be fully implemented.

In a blog post commemorating the initiative’s one-year anniversary, McCarthy writes, “Sometimes our efforts to protect public health and environment face opposition and/or litigation. The Clean Power Plan is no different.”

According to McCarthy, “The plan rests on a strong legal and technical foundation and is consistent with Supreme Court decisions, EPA’s statutory authority, and air pollution standards that have been put in place to tackle other pollution problems.”

She says the EPA developed the CPP after “unprecedented outreach and engagement,” and the plan puts “states in the driver’s seat” regarding compliance plans. McCarthy also says the CPP “mirrors” renewable energy and efficiency efforts already happening among states, utilities and the private sector, and she underscores the importance of combating climate change: “2016 is on pace to be the hottest year ever recorded – by a significant margin – while 2015 currently holds the title, and 2014 before that. The facts and the trends are clear, and the threat is real.”

The Sierra Club has also chimed in on the CPP’s birthday. In a press release, Liz Perera, the group’s climate policy director, comments, “The Clean Power Plan shows the world that the United States has developed a real, enforceable plan to curb dangerous carbon pollution and that we are truly committed to combating climate disruption. We cannot let attacks from big polluters and their allies threaten the safety of our communities. We will continue to push for strong and just state implementation plans so states are ready to implement the plan in a manner that truly benefits these communities once the courts lift the rule’s temporary stay.

“Not only will the Clean Power Plan help protect our health from dangerous pollution and our communities from catastrophic climate disruption; it will also spur the economy by incentivizing innovation, creating thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars in new investments in clean energy sources,” continues Perera. “The Clean Power Plan is the clear path forward into the bright future that hard-working American families deserve.”

Ever since the legal battle over the CPP commenced, myriad studies have found the plan would help increase the deployment of U.S. renewables and slash carbon pollution, and McCarthy says in her blog that “many states and tribes have indicated they plan to move forward voluntarily to reduce carbon pollution from power plants” during the ongoing stay.

“They have asked the agency to continue to develop tools to support them in their voluntary efforts,” she writes, “We are doing just that.”

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