On August 3, 2015, President Obama announced the final version of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power plan, the agency’s regulation to require existing power plants to reduce their emission of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds (often referred to as “greenhouse gases”) that contribute to global warming and climate change.
The regulation was first announced by the EPA on June 2, 2014, and was published in the June 18, 2014, Federal Register, starting on page 34829; the Web site for searching the Federal Register is https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/search. From that publication date, the proposed regulation had an initial 120-day public-comment period, until October 16, 2014, but the agency extended the public-comment deadline until December 1, 2014.
The final version differs from the proposed rule in several ways, including setting an overall nationwide carbon-emissions reduction target (compared to 2005 levels) of 32 percent by 2030, compared to the proposed rule’s 30 percent; changing some individual state emissions-reduction percentages that were in the 2014 proposal (Virginia’s reduction target was lower in the final version than it had been in the proposed version); allowing two additional years for states to submit implementation plans (2018 instead of 2016) and for the compliance period to start (2022 instead of 2020); increasing the 2030 target for electricity generated nationwide by renewable sources from 22 percent to 28 percent; and offering incentives to states that achieve accomplish renewable-energy or low-income energy-efficiency actions before the deadline. States will be allowed to choose from a mix of emissions-reductions options, including using different fuels, energy efficiency, reducing demand, and trading carbon-reduction credits with other states. EPA asserts that practices to reduce carbon emissions will have “co-benefit” of reducing missions of particles, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, substances that have impacts on human health (such as asthma) and on water resources when they are deposited into water bodies.
The regulation on existing power plants follows EPA’s release in September 2013 (January 2014 publication in the Federal Register) of a proposed rule on carbon emissions from new power-generating sources; the public-comment period for that proposal ended May 9, 2014 (extended from the original deadline of January 8, 2014). According to the EPA’s Web site, “2013 Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants” (online at http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/2013-proposed-carbon-pollution-standard-new-power-plants), the agency also expects to issue the final version of the new-source rule in summer 2015.
The regulatory actions on new and existing plants both come under Section 111 of the federal Clean Air Act. Information from the EPA on the agency’s overall program on carbon emissions is available online at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/what-epa-doing#overview. The EPA actions are part of the federal government’s response to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced on June 25, 2013. White House information on that plan is available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan.
On August 13, 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced an informal comment period on how the Commonwealth should respond to the Clean Power Plan, to run from August 13 through October 13, 2015. According to the DEQ’s 8/13/15 news release on the comment period (available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx), the “new EPA rules may have a significant impact on the Commonwealth. Therefore, prior to taking any formal action, DEQ is gathering general input from the public to help inform the Commonwealth’s review and implementation of EPA’s final rules for existing power plants…. In addition to receiving general input from the public, the Commonwealth is also interested in identifying and collecting input from vulnerable and overburdened communities. These communities include low-income communities, communities of color, areas where people are most vulnerable to climate change, and communities where economies may be affected by changes in the utility power and related sectors.” Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to (804) 698-4510, or mailed DEQ Air Division, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218. DEQ notes that because there is no formal DEQ proposal available for comment at this time, and the agency will not provide a response to comments.
On February 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of EPA’s implementation of the regulation until the lawsuit has run its course. The stay will remain is effect while the case returns to the D.C. Appeals Court to hear the merits of the lawsuit and for any appeals of that court’s eventual ruling. That court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in June 2016. Responding to the stay, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a February 10 news release that “we will stay on course and continue to develop the elements for a Virginia plan to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate our clean energy economy.” For more on the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, please see this News Grouper post.
On April 18, 2016, the Virginia DEQ released a report on the activities and findings so far of Virginia’s Clean Power Plan stakeholders group, which met five times from November 2015 to March 2016. According to that report, “[N]o further meetings [of the stakeholders group] are planned at this time, [but] DEQ will evaluate whether additional meetings are needed after several utility integrated resource plans (IRPs) and other studies become available in May 2016.” Access to the stakeholder group’s report in available at the DEQ’s “Greenhouse Gases” Web site, online at http://deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Air/GreenhouseGasPlan.aspx, as of 5/10/16).
SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
A 37-minute video of the 8/3/15 announcement is available online at https://youtu.be/RQ6N8zN3RCA; skip to about 3 min/42 seconds to see EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy; the president’s remarks start at about 7 min/45 seconds.
U.S. EPA’s 8/3/15 news release on the final rule: Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants.
U.S. EPA’s 6/2/14 news release on proposed Clean Power Plan rule: EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants.
U.S. EPA’s Web site on the Clean Power Plan: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan.
U.S. EPA state-by-state information for the final version, as of 8/3/15: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplantoolbox/clean-power-plan-state-specific-fact-sheets.
E&E Publishing’s “Clean Power Plan Hub,” available online at http://www.eenews.net/interactive/clean_power_plan. At that site, users can click on any U.S. state to access information about that state’s requirements.
An interactive map of power-generating plants in the mid-Atlantic region (including Virginia)—allowing users to click on a location to see emissions of carbon dioxide and gases—available from the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/reg3artd/globclimate/r3pplants.html.
A July 2014 report assessing what large electric-utility companies were already doing (at that time) in the areas of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources is available online at http://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/benchmarking-utility-clean-energy-deployment-2014.
Commonwealth of Virginia comments submitted 11/14/14 to EPA on the draft regulation: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Air/Planning/vacommentstoepa.pdf (16 pages).
RELATED MEDIA ARTICLES
(Items are listed from most recent to oldest; hyperlinks were functional when they were added to this post, but they may not necessarily always be.)
Since 8/3/15 final rule:
Virginia Committee Passes Bill Setting Foundation to Reject EPA Clean Power Plan, Tenth Amendment Center, 1/25/17 [regarding HB 1974 in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly, which would requires the Department of Environmental Quality to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state implementation plan of the Clean Power Plan].
Business owners, environmentalists press governor on clean energy plan for Virginia, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/22/16. [“A pair of environmental groups will deliver letters to Gov. Terry McAuliffe today signed by more than 100 Virginia businesses, health professionals and civic leaders urging the governor to implement ‘a strong Clean Power Plan.’”]
Clean Power Plan: Meet Va.’s man in the climate rule trenches, E&E ClimateWire, 5/6/16. [This article profiles Michael Dowd, the director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Division, and describes his role in Virginia’s response to the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.]
No Consensus on Clean Power Plan, but McAuliffe Cutting CO2 Emissions by Other Means, Bacon’s Rebellion, 4/8/16 [an assessment following the first five meetings of Virginia’s Clean Power Plan stakeholders group; more information about that group, including meeting minutes, is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Air/GreenhouseGasPlan.aspx.]
To Comply or Not? Obama’s Climate Plan in Limbo at State Level, Climate Wire, as published by Scientific American, 2/16/16.
Navigating the Clean Power Plan Maze, Bacon’s Rebellion, 2/16/16 [a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the “rate-based” vs. “mass-based” alternatives for complying with carbon-emission reductions under the Clean Power Plan].
General Assembly Moving Forward with Oversight of Clean Power Plan, WVIR TV-Charlottesville, 2/16/16.
Carbon Trading Program Could Yield Significant Rewards for Virginia, Union of Concerned Scientists, 1/14/16 [regarding Union of Concerned Scientists’ report released on 1/14/16; report available online at http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/increase-renewable-energy/meeting-and-exceeding-clean-power-plan-virginia#.Vqd78lIXf6U].
Virginia Joins Multi-State Coalition Supporting Economic, Environmental, and Health Benefits of Clean Air, Virginia Attorney General’s Office News Release, 11/4/15.
Activists urge DEQ to turn to renewable energy; Solar power was the most-suggested alternative to using more natural gas and building pipelines, Roanoke Times, 9/22/15 [account of 9/22/15 listening session by Va. DEQ, one of six sessions held around the state in Sept.-Oct. 2015 to gather citizen comments on how Virginia should respond to the Clean Power Plan].
DEQ to hear comments on new EPA rules, Lynchburg News & Advance, 9/21/15.
[Virginia General Assembly] House Republicans push legislation to challenge EPA’s Clean Power rules, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/10/15.
Virginia voices react to final Clean Power Plan rules, Associated Press, as published by Loudoun Times-Mirror, 8/4/15.
Governor McAuliffe Statement on Environmental Protection Agency’s Final Clean Power Plan Rule, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/3/15.
Virginia reacts to EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Daily Press, 8/3/15.
U.S. plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions eases the requirement for Virginia, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/3/15.
Climate change: Obama unveils Clean Power Plan, BBC News, 8/3/15.
U.S. Unveils Strengthened Clean Power Plan to Combat Climate Change, Climate Wire, as published by Scientific American, 8/3/15.
Obama unveils major climate change proposal, CNN, 8/3/15.
Virginia reacts to EPA’s Clean Power Plan, [Newport News] Daily Press, 8/3/15.
U.S. plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions eases the requirement for Virginia, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/3/15.
Obama Announces Rule to Cut Carbon Emissions From Power Plants; Final regulation calls for 32% cut in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, Wall Street Journal, 8/3/15.
Will new clean power regulations stand up to challenges?, (15 min./44 sec. video, with online transcript), PBS NewsHour, 8/3/15.
Prior to 8/3/15 final rule:
Energy rules have Virginia weighing new nuclear reactor at North Anna, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/5/15.
Virginia, Coal Country for Centuries, Now Embraces Carbon Regulations, Inside Climate News, 6/16/15.
Virginia weighs joining [regional] carbon market under EPA rules, Washington Examiner, 5/12/15.