EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Lower Utility Bills, Billions in Benefits Every Year

Tom Reynolds Tom Reynolds

By: Tom Reynolds

 

They’re at it again. Just like we predicted, critics are already claiming EPA’s Clean Power Plan will drive up utility rates, or that the cost of climate action isn’t worth it. They’re wrong.

Not only will the Clean Power Plan save families an estimated $85 a year on their utility bills in 2030; the health benefits of this rule alone outweigh the costs 4 to 1.

The transition to clean energy is happening faster than anticipated, even when we proposed the rule last year—and that’s a very good thing. It means carbon and air pollution are already decreasing, improving public health every year. The Clean Power Plan accelerates this momentum, putting us on pace to cut this dangerous pollution to historically low levels in the future.

By 2030, sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants will be 90 percent lower than 2005 levels, and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower. Because these pollutants can create dangerous soot and smog, the historically low levels mean we’ll avoid 90,000 children’s asthma attacks, 300,000 missed days of school and work, and up to 3,600 premature deaths in 2030 alone.

The Clean Power Plan isn’t just about what we avoid; it’s about what we gain. Our rule is projected to lead to billions of dollars a year in benefits. They include climate benefits of $20 billion a year, health benefits of up to $34 billion a year, and net benefits of up to $45 billion a year in 2030. In short, the Clean Power Plan will protect Americans’ health and their pocketbooks.

A major reason for this rule is to protect vulnerable communities—and that includes keeping electricity rates affordable for low-income Americans. That’s why the Clean Power Plan gives states and utilities the time and flexibility they need to take carbon pollution into account while preserving affordable, reliable power.

We wouldn’t accept anything less. States and utilities told us they needed more time than the proposal gave them to make a smooth transition—and we listened. That’s why, in the final rule, required pollution reductions don’t kick in until 2022—a two-year extension. Utilities already spend $100 billion a year to generate and deliver electricity; we’ve made sure our plan gives them time to take carbon pollution into account with the investments they’re already making.

But to encourage states to stay ahead of the curve and not delay planned investments, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will help states transition to clean energy faster. It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind or solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities.

We’re also requiring that states give vulnerable communities a seat at the table with other stakeholders as they craft their compliance plans, making sure everyone has a voice in the decision-making process.

The real threat to affordable power is climate change. More extreme heat and cold send utility bills through the roof—and force low-income families to choose between heating their homes and other essentials like food and medicine. More intense droughts, floods, fires, and storms can knock out the power for days or weeks—like we saw during Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the major Boston snowstorms last winter.

Despite these facts, the critics are crying wolf, just like they have for decades.

They cried wolf in the ‘90s, when they opposed our limits on acid rain-causing pollution from power plants. They said our rule would send prices up, and turn the lights off. But instead of the doomsday some critics predicted, we slashed acid rain by 60 percent, all while keeping prices stable and keeping the lights on.

EPA has proven time and time again that a safe environment is the foundation of a strong economy. Over the last 45 years, we’ve cut air pollution 70 percent—all while our economy has tripled.

The American people won’t buy into the same tired plays from the same special-interest playbook. They know better. We encourage everyone to get the facts at epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

 

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