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 email@example.com, 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.
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.)
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.
Since 8/3/15 final rule:
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.