power plants

What’s Next for the Clean Power Plan?

On Monday, President Obama announced a huge step to fight climate change and protect our kids’ health: EPA’s Clean Power Plan. By 2030, the plan will drastically cut carbon pollution from power plants – our nation’s biggest driver of climate change – as well as the other harmful air pollutants that come along with it.

The release of the final Clean Power Plan is a historic step forward for our country, and with its launch, we begin a new chapter as we take action against climate change.

Among the many commenters, states provided critical feedback to help EPA build a final Clean Power Plan that works for everyone. And starting now, states are in the driver’s seat of putting the plan into action.

The Clean Power Plan sets uniform emissions rates for power plants across the country. They’re the same in every state for similar types of fossil fuel plants, ensuring fairness and consistency across the board. Using these rates, EPA’s plan then sets state-specific goals for cutting carbon pollution based on each state’s unique energy mix.

That’s where flexibility and a host of options come in. States can decide how best to achieve pollution reductions from power plants. The Clean Power Plan explains the state options, and EPA has also proposed a Federal Plan and Model Rule that states can adopt as a ready-made, cost-effective path forward. But states don’t have to use the EPA’s approach; they can pursue a range of other approaches. And compliance strategies are wide open, too. Utilities can improve plant efficiency, run cleaner plants more, shift toward cleaner fuels, use renewables, and take advantage of energy efficiency and interstate trading.

So, what’s next? Here are a few important milestones to look for.

2016: States have until September 6, 2016, to build and submit their customized plans for cutting       carbon pollution and meeting their goals. They’ll send those plans to EPA for review. If a year isn’t enough time, states can request an extension.

2022: This is the first year that states are required to start meeting interim goals for carbon pollution reduction. But investments and plans underway now can help states get closer to their goals even sooner, and to help them, we’ve created a Clean Energy Incentive Program to help states get a head start on reducing carbon emissions as soon as 2020.

2022 – 2029: Because we know pollution reductions won’t happen overnight, EPA is providing a path to help states make a smooth transition to clean energy future. State pollution reductions can be achieved gradually, over an interim step-down period between 2022 and 2029, before states are required to meet their final goals.

2030: This is the year that states are required to meet their full carbon pollution reduction goals under the Clean Power Plan—and the year we’ll see its full benefits to our health and our pocketbooks. In 2030, when states meet their goals, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32 percent below 2005 levels. That’s 870 million fewer tons of carbon pollution, with even less over time. And because of reductions to other harmful air pollutants that come packaged with carbon pollution, we’ll avoid thousands of premature deaths and have thousands fewer asthma cases and hospitalizations in 2030 alone. What’s more, 2030 is the year the nation will see up to $45 billion in net benefits from the clean power plan, and the average American family will see up to $85 a year in savings on their utility bills.

The good news is, we don’t have to wait until 2030 to start seeing the Clean Power Plan’s benefits. Communities will start seeing tangible health and cost benefits as states make progress toward cutting carbon pollution and increasing efficiency.

Starting now, state planning will begin in earnest. And we hope you will get engaged. The Clean Power Plan requires states to work with communities and stakeholders to make sure the plans they build reflect your needs. And EPA will be looking to see how states are taking stakeholder input into account.

We urge you to be part of the process, get informed, and get involved. EPA received more than 4.3 million public comments on its initial proposed Plan, and we listened to your concerns. The final Clean Power Plan is stronger, more flexible, and more achievable because of your feedback. Here are some upcoming ways to get involved:

August 20, 2015: Join us for a webinar designed to provide communities with an overview of what is in the Clean Power Plan and how to participate. More details available soon HERE.

Fall 2015: EPA will hold public hearings around the country for the proposed Federal Plan and Model Rules. More details will be posted on www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan soon.

As Administrator McCarthy has said, “climate change is personal.” It affects you no matter who you are or where you come from. That’s why we need you to be involved and have your voice heard.

Learn more about how the Clean Power Plan affects your state HERE.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

In Perspective: the Supreme Court’s Mercury and Air Toxics Rule Decision

The Supreme Court’s decision on EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) was disappointing to everyone working to protect public health by reducing emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  But as we take stock of what this decision means, there are some important factors that make me confident we are still on track to reduce this dangerous pollution and better protect America’s children, families and communities.

Most notably – the Administration remains committed to finalizing the Clean Power Plan this summer and yesterday’s ruling will have no bearing on the effort to reduce carbon pollution from the largest sources of emissions.

Second – this decision is very narrow.  It did not invalidate the rule, which remains in effect today.  In fact, the majority of power plants are already in compliance or well on their way to compliance.  The Court found that EPA should have considered costs at an earlier step in the rulemaking process than it did.  The court did not question EPA’s authority to control toxic air pollution from power plants provided it considers cost in that step.  It also did not question our conclusions on human health that supported the agency’s finding that regulation is needed.  And its narrow ruling does not disturb the remainder of the D.C. Circuit decision which unanimously upheld all other aspects of the MATS rule and rejected numerous challenges to the standards themselves.

Third – this decision does not affect other Clean Air Act programs that address other sources and types of air pollution. It hinged on a very specific section of the Act that applies exclusively to the regulation of air toxics from power plants.  This is important to understand because it means that rules and programs that reduce other types of pollutants under other sections of the Clean Air Act—like ozone and fine particles (smog and soot) can continue without interruption or delay.

The decision does not affect the Clean Power Plan, which EPA will be finalizing later this summer and which will chart the course for this country to reduce harmful carbon from its fleet of existing power plants.   That’s worth repeating: The Court’s conclusion that EPA must consider cost when determining whether it is “appropriate” to regulate toxic air emissions from utilities under section 112 of the Act will not impact the development of the Clean Power Plan under section 111.  Cost is among the factors the Agency has long explicitly considered in setting standards under section 111 of the Act.

Fourth – America’s power sector is getting cleaner year after year by investing in more modern technologies.   Since President Obama took office, wind energy has tripled and solar has grown ten-fold. The Clean Power Plan will build on these current positive trends.  That means cleaner air in communities across the country, as well as a boost to our economy as we build the clean energy system of the future.

Finally – What’s next for MATS?   From the moment we learned of this decision, we were committed to ensuring that standards remain in place to protect the public from toxic emissions from coal and oil-fired electric utilities.  We will continue to work to make that happen.  There are questions that will need to be answered over the next several weeks and months as we review the decision and determine the appropriate next steps once that review is complete.  But as I’ve already noted, MATS is still in place and many plants have already installed controls and technologies to reduce their mercury emissions.

After nearly 45 years of implementing the Clean Air Act, there have been many more victories than defeats as we’ve worked together to clean the air and raise healthier children and families.  Despite the Supreme Court’s MATS decision, the agency remains confident that the progress we’ve made so far in improving air quality and protecting public health will continue.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Community-Based Programs are Key to Addressing Asthma Triggers

Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness Month? If you or a family member are among the nearly 23 million Americans who are affected by this chronic respiratory disease, you probably already knew. Each year, in May, we increase our public awareness efforts, further strengthen our partnerships with community–based asthma organizations, and recognize exceptional asthma programs.

The chart below shows the prevalence of asthma, its cost to us as a society and what is called the “asthma disparity.” As you can see, poor and minority children suffer a greater burden from asthma and we need to work together to ensure everyone has access to the care they need to get their asthma under control.

What’s the best way to address the asthma disparity? The medical and public health communities have found that the key is a comprehensive, community-based approach that incorporates medical treatment and the management of environmental triggers like secondhand smoke, mold, dust mites and pet dander. This approach can lead to fewer asthma episodes and better quality of life for children and families struggling with asthma.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

A Cleaner Environment, a Stronger Economy

When we last heard from the Chamber of Commerce, they were releasing a report that made unfounded assumptions about EPA’s commonsense standards to cut the harmful pollution from power plants. The Washington Post Fact Checker later gave those citing the study a “Four Pinocchio” rating.
Yesterday, the Chamber had another blog post that both misrepresents EPA’s analysis of the economic impact of its regulations and misleads about a recent GAO study.

EPA is keenly aware that our economy is on the rebound and that policy makers are concerned about impacts on employment — that is why we have increased the amount of employment analysis we perform over the last several years, particularly for economically significant rules.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Another Favorable Opinion from the Supreme Court

Today’s Supreme Court decision is a resounding win for EPA. At issue was how certain Clean Air Act permitting programs apply to carbon pollution. Justice Scalia, writing for seven of the nine justices, largely upheld EPA’s approach to requiring that carbon pollution be addressed in permits for large emitters, such as power plants and refineries. As Justice Scalia reportedly noted from the bench, “EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.”

EPA’s inaugural suite of carbon pollution rules have now been fully vetted in federal court, and have emerged victorious, and largely unscathed. In fact, the most significant pieces of the Agency’s approach were not even granted Supreme Court review, having been found sound and upheld by the D.C. Circuit. EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare was upheld by the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to it. Similarly, the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA’s first set of rules limiting carbon pollution from cars and trucks (and simultaneously saving consumers money at the pump), and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to those rules.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions about the EPA’s proposed rules to cut carbon pollution in our power plants.

During the “Ask Me Anything,” Administrator McCarthy answered questions on a range of topics — including President Obama’s plan to fight climate change, what people can do in their own communities, and her thoughts on Marvin Gaye.

You can see all of the responses on Reddit, or check out the questions and responses below.

Gina McCarthy here. EPA Administrator, mom, wife, Boston area native, Red Sox fan.

Yesterday the EPA proposed a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. The science shows that climate change is already posing risks to our health and our economy. The Clean Power Plan will maintain an affordable reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and our environment, now and for future generations. Read more here: http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/06/our-clean-power-plan-will-spur-innovation-and-strengthen-the-economy/

I’ll be here to answer questions starting at 6:00 PM ET. Ask Me Anything. Proof it’s me: https://twitter.com/GinaEPA/status/473899708721946625

Question: Why do you think climate change has become the partisan issue that is has recently? Do you think we have a chance of moving away from the politicization of science in the foreseeable future?

Reply: We know what the science tells us – the time to act is now. There is nothing political about public health and clean air.

Question: Hi Secretary McCarthy! Thanks so much for taking our questions, and thank you for your efforts in rolling out this historic proposed rule. I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of complaints, but you have also made many people incredibly happy and relieved to finally see action in this area, including myself.

  1. Can you discuss the legal authority for setting standards for each state as opposed to individual existing power plants? I think it’s great that the state-wide solution adds more flexibility, but I’m curious about how EPA Office of General Counsel justified authority for this.
  2. Many coal towns are lamenting the inevitable loss of jobs. While jobs are likely to be created elsewhere if the proposed rule becomes final, how can the EPA and the Obama administration directly provide for these communities?
  3. How was a 30% reduction decided upon, and how was it decided to use 2005 as the baseline?
  4. How often do people tell you that your Boston accent is the greatest thing ever? I interned at EPA last summer when you first started as EPA Secretary and all that people on my floor were talking about for a week was the welcome video in which you called EPA employees “soopah smaaht.”

Reply: This is a Clean Air Act rule. State standards make the most sense. We’ll get substantial reductions in carbon emissions in practical, flexible, achievable ways. We expect states can take actions that will protect their communities, public health and local economy. Check out how we did the state standards, it wasn’t about getting 30%, that’s what the standards will achieve nationally. You are wicked cool!

Question: How did you like the Simpson’s Movie?

Reply: I sure hope I’m a better EPA Administrator than Russ Cargill. But seriously, Marge is my favorite. Love the hair.

Question: Can you talk a little about how the EPA Clean Power Plan targets fit into President Obama’s broader 2009 UN Copenhagen Accord targets or long-term plans after 2030? The EPA proposed rule hopes to get to a 30% reduction in electricity emissions by 2030, and the UN Copenhagen Accord targets are quite a bit more ambitious: 17% reduction in total emissions by 2020, 42% by 2030, and 83% by 2050 (1). Based on the EPA GHG inventory (2), this looks like the EPA rules would get us about 30% of the way to the Copenhagen Accord goals by 2030 – what do you see as making up the rest of this gap?

Reply: Our Clean Power Plan is only one action in the President’s Climate Action Plan. It’s a gigantic leap forward and shows significant US leadership, check out the full range of things the President is moving forward: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change. And don’t forget the innovation and investment across the US that this rule will unleash will push our energy revolution forward. It turns out that carbon reductions actually do more than save the planet, they protect kids’ health today.

Question: What are the chances of a zombie apocalypse happening?

Reply: Probably a better question for the CDC!

Question: Hi Gina, Junior Environmental Engineer here. What advice do you have for someone like me who wants to make an effective change towards our environment ? What are effective ways of promoting and implementing the principles of sustainability?

Reply: See what’s going on your community. There’s lots happening across the US, and your skills and energy can really make a difference. When it comes to sustainability local engagement can make the most difference. Check out epa.gov. We’ve got a lot of resources there to get you started.

Question: Hi Gina, why do some many EPA employees go work for the industries they regulate? Do you approve of that ? It seems to be a conflict of interest. Wouldn’t you agree?

Also, why are your fines so low? It appears any kind of EPA action is just a cost of doing business for polluters.

Reply: We have lots of people who come from industry to work at EPA, and they’re totally committed to public health and environmental protection. If people leave EPA and go to work in the private sector, I can’t imagine that they’re going to leave that commitment behind – people who work at the EPA are too passionate about the environment.

I don’t agree that our fines are low. We work very hard to make sure that it doesn’t pay to pollute in this country.

Question: Thanks for taking our questions! What is the number 1 thing individuals can do to support more progress in this direction? What 1 thing would you ask of the private sector?

Reply: The number one thing you can do is to get in the game! Make your voice heard and take action. The same thing goes for the private sector.

Question: Good evening, Administrator McCarthy. West Virginia lawmakers and power industry leaders are worried about the effects of the Clean Power Plan on the state. 1. How many jobs do you predict will be lost in the coal mining industry? 2. How will it affect the price of electricity in the state? 3. How will it affect WV’s economy? 4. Is the base line for the target reductions 2005 or 2012?

Reply: The proposed plan gives the state the flexibilty to design a plan that works for them. We’ll be working closely with folks in West Virigina to make sure they understand what their goal is and the full range of options available. EPA cares about the health and economy of every community in this country.

Question: Do programs like WaterSense and EnergyStar factor into the future climate change initiatives?

Reply: They sure do. Both WaterSense and EnergyStar drive efficiency that benefits every consumer and the planet. You’d be surprised how small reductions add up to big savings for the planet and your pocketbooks. The more people choose EnergyStar and WaterSense products, the more we all win.

Question: Any comments/background/behind the scenes on your marathon of a confirmation fight?

Reply: What confirmation fight? I’m here now and having the time of my life!

Question: Hi Gina! I’d love to hear what your opinions are in regards to nuclear power vs. fossil fuels, specifically as it relates to how best to deal with nuclear waste. Thanks!

Reply: When it comes to nuclear, we know there are some questions, but there’s no denying that it’s carbon free and will be part of the energy mix.

On the issue of waste, it’s been a long standing challenge and one that needs a long term solution. Folks across the Administration are working on it.

Question: Favorite rap/hip hop album?

Reply: I’m more of a Marvin Gaye fan.

Question: I live in Montana and we’re getting bombarded with messages about how this is going to cost us jobs. I recall hearing that global warming wasn’t an issue because technology, in future generations, would fix any problems we might encounter. Won’t that same American ingenuity come up with “clean coal” solutions or other options? Isn’t this more a job shift away from incumbents toward innovators?

You’ve got a tough job ahead. Stick to your guns. History will remember you as being on the right side, no matter what the coal and gas industries say.

Reply: We’re bullish on American ingenuity, that’s what makes this country so great. Thanks for your faith and optimism!

Question: Do you think such an impactful rule should be voted on by Congress? If this rule were put to a Congressional vote, would it pass?

Reply: Congress gave EPA the authority and responsibility to implement the Clean Air Act. We regulate power plants for mercury, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants. Why wouldn’t we regulate power plants for harmful carbon pollution? It fuels climate change and threatens public health.

UPDATE: This has been great – so many great questions. Next time I’ll have to type faster! Thanks everybody.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions about the EPA’s proposed rules to cut carbon pollution in our power plants.

During the “Ask Me Anything,” Administrator McCarthy answered questions on a range of topics — including President Obama’s plan to fight climate change, what people can do in their own communities, and her thoughts on Marvin Gaye.

You can see all of the responses on Reddit, or check out the questions and responses below.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Our Clean Power Plan Will Spur Innovation and Strengthen the Economy

It’s an important day.  Today, at the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. And we don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Setting the Record Straight on the Chamber of Commerce’s Report

Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report that makes unfounded assumptions about the EPA’s upcoming proposal for commonsense standards to cut the harmful carbon pollution from power plants.

First, before EPA even put pen to paper to draft the proposed standards, we gathered an unprecedented amount of input and advice through hundreds of meetings with hundreds of groups—including many members of the Chamber.  That input fed into the draft proposal we’ll release on June 2, and we plan to kick off a second phase of engagement as we work through the draft and get to a reasonable, meaningful final rule.

Second—the Chamber’s report is nothing more than irresponsible speculation based on guesses of what our draft proposal will be.  Just to be clear—it’s not out yet. I strongly suggest that folks read the proposal before they cry the sky is falling. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The Mullen Monument – Not What It Used To Be

By Nancy Grundahl

I won’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of the Philadelphia sculptor, Daniel Kornbau. I hadn’t either until I began researching my ancestry. I learned that Daniel was the brother of my great grandmother Emma. His most famous work is the Mullen Monument, which was commissioned by the millionaire William James Mullen. It was, in fact, on display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park. You can see it today in Laurel Hill Cemetery, where its location is marked on the visitors’ map. For Rocky fans, Laurel Hill is the cemetery where Adrian Balboa was buried.

After seeing many photos of the Mullen Monument on the web, I was surprised to see how weathered it was “in person.” Sharp edges were rounded. You can barely read Daniel’s name and address under the seated woman. Years of acid rain have not been kind to my great uncle’s work of art.

Philadelphia is downwind of many industrial sources of sulfur dioxides (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, particularly power plants that burn fossil fuels. These pollutants combine with moisture in the air to form the acid rain that reacts with the calcite in marble and limestone, causing the calcite to dissolve, destroying the fine details that Daniel worked so well to create.

The good news is that in the last few years, pollutants causing acid rain in the Philadelphia area have been reduced by actions including installing additional controls on power plants and burning cleaner coal. And, it was a pleasure to see Administrator Jackson’s recent announcement about requiring significant new reductions in power plant mercury and toxic emissions.

What can we do to help? Conserve energy, since energy production causes the largest portion of the acid rain problem. In this way we can help preserve fine works of art for future generations.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently works in Program Support for the Water Protection Division. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.