- Environment & Energy
The Clean Power Plan Repeal
What We Lost, and What Comes Next
On October 10th, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.
FCNL has denounced this decision for the harm it will cause the Earth and humanity. Since its inception, the plan has been surrounded by legal and political complexity. To better understand how the Clean Power Plan came to be, and what will happen since Pruitt's announcement, here's a bit of background on the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power plan was released on Aug. 3 of 2015 and represented the most ambitious step at the federal level to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The plan set a goal of cutting emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. In order to achieve this, each state was assigned individual emissions reduction goals and was allowed to come up with its own plan for reaching that goal. Under this system, states had flexibility in deciding how much to adjust the various sectors of their energy portfolios as well as incorporating the purchase or sale of carbon allowances into their plan.
The EPA was given authority to implement this regulation in 2007 by the Supreme Court ruling in, Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the court defined greenhouse gasses as atmospheric pollutants. Under the Clean Air Act, which was signed into law in 1963, the EPA has authority to regulate atmospheric pollutants if they can be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health and welfare. The Clean Power Plan was adopted pursuant to this charge and was expected to prevent 1,500 to 3,600 premature deaths, up to 1,700 heart attacks, and 90,000 asthma attacks in children.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formally announced the repeal of the Clean Power Plan on October 10th, 2017. The repeal process has been some time in the making, however. In March of 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to review the plan, and EPA officials found the Clean Power plan to exceed the statutory requirement to regulate atmospheric pollutants provided in the Clean Air Act.
The decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan comes shortly after devastating hurricanes in the Atlantic and while wildfires rage across the western U.S. It has been criticized by faith leaders across religious traditions for doing unnecessary harm to vulnerable communities.
The decision to repeal will likely face extensive litigation, with NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman already announcing his intent to sue the administration over the decision. Any rule forwarded by the EPA to replace the Clean Power Plan would have to go through a public comment period and the possibility of further litigation. Some administration and industry officials are even urging Pruitt not to introduce a replacement rule in order to avoid regulating carbon entirely. This would be a direct attack on the “endangerment finding” of the Massachusetts v. EPA case and would lend strength to those litigating against Pruitt.
The administration’s plan to repeal the rule indicates a frightening disregard for scientific fact and a clear prioritization of the interests of oil and gas companies. Despite this, there are many signs that the goals of the Clean Power Plan may still be met by many states.
Driven primarily by economic factors, many states are already reducing their carbon emissions by making the switch away from coal in favor of natural gas and renewable energy sources. Many states have pledged to meet the emissions reductions goals set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement and have crafted plans to do so. Furthermore, many of the states that originally filed lawsuits against the Clean Power Plan are already on track to meet the emissions goals set by the plan.
The administration’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan represents a dangerous attempt to dismantle regulations that protect public health and quality of life. In response, FCNL will look for bipartisan leadership in Congress as well as leadership by individual states and clean energy producers to continue to reduce carbon emissions.