Environmental Protection Agency Rescinds Clean Power Plan

Published October 11, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register, proposing to rescind former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The October 10 filing starts a 60 day public comment period on EPA’s decision.

EPA based the decision to rescind CPP on three main grounds: CPP is inconsistent with the 1970 Clean Air Act; CPP violated states’ authority to decide the best mix of power generation within their borders and eroded longstanding federal/state partnerships necessary to achieve environmental improvement; and enforcement of CPP would have had a devastating effect on jobs and raised energy costs for consumers while having virtually no effect on climate change.

During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump pledged to do away with CPP. As part of President Trump’s March 28 “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” executive order, Trump directed Pruitt to review CPP and rescind or revise it, if necessary, to promote the wise development of natural resources, unencumber energy production, and increase jobs.

Obama’s Centerpiece Climate Effort

CPP was the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s policy of moving the United States away from the use of fossil fuels, beginning with coal, in order to fight climate change.

CPP would require states to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, on average. To comply with the plan, states would have to force utilities to shutter dozens of coal-fired power plants prematurely.

The Energy Information Administration had projected CPP would result in $1.23 trillion in lost GDP (in 2014 dollars) between 2020 and 2030, with an average annual GDP loss of $112 billion. The Obama administration acknowledged in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on July 9, 2015, if the United States met CPP’s emission reductions targets it would prevent at best 1/100th of one degree C of temperature rise by 2100.

Twenty-seven states, led by West Virginia, and several industry groups and trade associations challenged CPP’s legality in federal court. In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of ordering a nationwide stay on implementation of CPP before it went into effect, pending the outcome of the legal challenges.

‘Important for This Country’

At an event in Hazard, Kentucky the day before EPA issued its formal decision to rescind CPP, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the CPP rollback was important for the nation.

“I’m excited to be with you here today because it’s not just to visit about all the things we’re doing, which I think is very, very important for this country,” Pruitt said. “When you think about what that rule [CPP] meant, that rule really was about picking winners and losers.

“Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers,” said Pruitt. “The past administration … w[as] using every bit of power, every bit of authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country. And that’s wrong.”

Ending War on Fossil Fuels

Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D., a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Kansas’ first district and current president of The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, said the decision to rescind CPP was based on sound science.

“The war on fossil fuels is nearing an end,” said Huelskamp. “This is a wise, science-based decision by Administrator Scott Pruitt and President Donald Trump.

“The real winners here are not only coal miners and coal states, but all Americans who simply can’t afford massive increases in their energy bills as a result of the Clean Power Plan,” Huelskamp said.

Isaac Orr, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, says CPP repeal is an important step toward increasing U.S. energy production without harming the environment.

“Repealing the CPP is a powerful step toward achieving the Trump administration’s goal of making the United States a dominating force in global energy markets,” Orr said. “Scrapping the CPP is the first of a series of steps that must be taken to reverse the Obama administration’s energy policies, which have for many years put their thumb on the scale in favor of renewables, regardless of their cost to consumers.”

“Although economically punitive, CPP would have had zero measurable effects on future global temperatures,” said Orr.

More to Do

Economist Alan Carlin, Ph.D., a retired EPA analyst, says there is more work to be done beyond rescinding CPP if Trump wants to promote rational energy policy for the long term.

“I strongly welcome the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Obama administration’s so-called Clean Power Plan,” said Carlin. “If it had gone into effect, it would have imposed monumental costs on the American public based on a misreading of the Clean Air Act.

“While this is a good start, EPA needs to do much more to rein in the unjustifiable climate-alarmist actions of the Obama administration, as well as possible future administrations,” Carlin said. “In particular, it needs to reconsider and withdraw the ‘endangerment finding’ of 2009.”

EPA’s determination carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and the environment, known as the endangerment finding, served as the basis for various Obama administration climate policies.

“Reversing the endangerment finding would remove the continuing uncertainty as to what EPA may do in the future, which would improve the ability of everyone to make rational decisions related to climate,” Carlin said. “This would greatly hinder EPA’s climate-alarmist agenda, by effectively revoking all of the Obama climate initiatives, past and present, including CPP.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.