The Clean Power Plan: Protecting Public Health While Safeguarding Affordable, Reliable Electricity

Since the day EPA began working on the Clean Power Plan, we have committed to cutting the carbon pollution causing climate change, while ensuring grid reliability. Misleading claims from a few special-interest critics may try to convince folks otherwise, but we know reliability is a top issue for states, utilities, and energy regulators. And that means it’s a top issue for EPA. As always, we are committed to working with stakeholders to make sure reliability is never threatened.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held the first in a series of technical conferences on electricity reliability to discuss this issue. We appreciated the chance to take part.

As our Acting Assistant Administrator for Air Janet McCabe said, “Over EPA’s long history of developing Clean Air Act pollution standards for the electric power sector, including the proposed Clean Power Plan, the agency has consistently treated electric system reliability as absolutely critical. Because of this attention, at no time in the more than 40 years that EPA has been implementing the Clean Air Act has compliance with air pollution standards resulted in reliability problems.”

We’re going to continue the constructive dialogue we’ve had with states, utilities, energy regulators, and the public as we finalize our proposal this summer to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. We worked carefully to make our proposal flexible, offering states and electric generators a wide variety of approaches to meet their pollution reduction goals.

As researchers and experts from industry and government have reviewed our plan, they agree EPA regulations are unlikely to threaten grid reliability in the future.

  • This month, a new Department of Energy report predicts the power sector would maintain reliability under the Clean Power Plan with only modest changes to natural gas pipeline infrastructure – changes well within the range of investments utilities have made in the past.
  • The Brattle Group said in a recent report, “We find that compliance with the Clean Power Plan is unlikely to materially affect reliability.” Authors of the report concluded that the plan’s critics haven’t fully addressed the options that utilities and grid operators have to achieve EPA’s carbon emissions reduction goals without causing blackouts.
  • And Boston’s Analysis Group said in a new report, “As proposed by EPA, the Clean Power Plan provides states and power plant owners a wide range of compliance options and operational discretion [. . .] that can prevent reliability issues while also reducing carbon pollution and cost.” As long as EPA and states plan appropriately, cutting carbon pollution and assuring reliability are compatible goals.

As with anything EPA does, a handful of special-interest critics are automatically opposed. They claim the Clean Power Plan will threaten reliability because they benefit from maintaining the status quo. In fact, failing to take steps to modernize our electric grid is the costliest thing we could do.

As we’ve said before, EPA is committed to protecting reliability as we incorporate the comments we’ve received, and we’ll work with FERC, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, states, and our industry partners to implement the final rule.

The power sector is undergoing significant market-driven changes independent of regulation, and the Clean Power Plan advances those industry trends—to protect our health, our economy, and our power grid for generations to come.

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