The shortest explanation of the USA’s Clean Power Plan you are ever likely to see

The Clean Power Plan proposed by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been floating in the news, but it’s a pretty big document to digest all at once. Here we’ll share what it aims to do and how, and what stage it is at right now.

The goals of the Clean Power Plan are to:

  • Protect the health of American families by preventing up to 3,600 premature deaths, preventing 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and preventing 300,000 missed workdays and schooldays. These deaths and illnesses are largely attributable to climate- and pollution-related threats.

  • Save American families money (nearly $85 a year in 2030).

  • Boost renewable energy generation by making up to 30% more renewable energy generation in 2030, lowering the costs of renewable energy, and creating jobs.

  • Provide benefits to low-income, minority, and tribal communities.

  • Mitigate the significant costs it expects to incur when faced with “unchecked” climate change.

So why is this plan needed? It addresses carbon pollution, which is the biggest driver of climate change. Electricity and transportation are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

What does the plan intend to do?

While the EPA sets the goals, each state, tribe, and territory makes its own final plan and that it consults with a reliability or planning agency when it does so.

The plan was announced in August 2015. So where is the plan at now? In February, 2016, the Supreme Court decided that the Clean Power Plan is pending judicial review. The decision on the case can be made as early as July 2016 and no later than February 2017.

There are several legal issues with the Clean Power Plan that merit review. Some of them are:

  • Violation of the 10th Amendment. The Clean Power Plan “tramples” on States’ rights.

  • Violation of the 5th Amendment. The Clean Power Plan confiscates property without due process or just compensation.

Opposition came from states West Virginia — a major coal producer — and Texas –a major oil producer –as well as from various business groups (e.g. U.S.Chamber of Commerce) and utilities (e.g. American Electric Power Co., Southern Co., Peabody Energy Corp.).

Because the Clean Power Plan is a deeply partisan issue, it is likely that its approval will be decided after the presidential election, when a new Justice will be selected (following the death of Scalia). On the one hand, some groups point out that many states have already begun a shift toward renewable energy and that they do not need the plan to do so. On the other hand, a rejection of this plan indicates a lack of responsibility for climate change and carbon emissions — a continuation of Kyoto-era affairs. The EPA, at least, would like the USA to lead on the issue of climate change, in contrast to its past. “The Clean Power Plan is changing the international dynamic, and leveraging international action because when the U.S. [sic] leads, other nations follow. U.S. [sic] action has helped spur announcements from China, Brazil, and Mexico to limit their emissions or increase RE deployment.

About Savina Venkova

Savina does Marketing and Research for Carbon Analytics. She has a background in biology and sustainable development, and much of her work is informed by her involvement in divestment activism. She has lived on three continents and intends to double that figure.

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