Tuesday, August 21, 2018

EPA Proposes "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" To Replace Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday proposed a new rule to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal-fired electric utility generating units and power plants across the country.
This proposal, entitled the “Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule,” establishes emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit GHGs at their power plants.
EPA said the ACE Rule would replace the prior administration’s Clean Power Plan and instead empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation.
Pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order 13873, which directed Federal agencies to review burdensome regulations, the EPA undertook a review of the CPP.
EPA said many believed the CPP exceeded EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act, which is why 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and three labor unions challenged the rule. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an unprecedented stay of the rule [in May 2017 to give EPA more time to consider whether the Clean Power Plan should be changed or eliminated].    
“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance.”
“EPA has an important role when it comes to addressing the CO2 from our nation’s power plants,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum. “The ACE rule would fulfill this role in a manner consistent with the structure of the Clean Air Act while being equally respectful of its bounds.”
EPA said the proposal will work to reduce GHG emissions through four main actions:
-- ACE defines the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) for existing power plants as on-site, heat-rate efficiency improvements;
-- ACE provides states with a list of “candidate technologies” that can be used to establish standards of performance and be incorporated into their state plans;
-- ACE updates the New Source Review (NSR) permitting program to further encourage efficiency improvements at existing power plants; and
-- ACE aligns regulations under CAA section 111(d) to give states adequate time and flexibility to develop their state plans.
EPA said the proposed ACE Rule is informed by more than 270,000 public comments that EPA received as part of its December 2017 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).  
EPA’s regulatory impact analysis (RIA) for this proposal includes a variety of scenarios.
These scenarios are illustrative because the statute gives states the flexibility needed to consider unit-specific factors-- including a particular unit’s remaining useful life-- when it comes to standards of performance.
Key findings include the following:
-- EPA projects that replacing the CPP with the proposal could provide $400 million in annual net benefits.
-- The ACE Rule would reduce the compliance burden by up to $400 million per year when compared to CPP.
-- All four scenarios find that the proposal will reduce CO2 emissions from their current level.
-- EPA estimates that the ACE Rule could reduce 2030 CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 percent from projected levels without the CPP--  the equivalent of taking 5.3 million cars off the road. Further, these illustrative scenarios suggest that when states have fully implemented the proposal, U.S. power sector CO2 emissions could be 33 to 34 percent below 2005 levels, higher than the projected CO2 emissions reductions from the CPP.  [NOTE: The proposed rule has no firm deadline for states to achieve these reductions.  The Clean Power Plan used 2030.]
EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing.
More information including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice and a fact sheet are available online.
Reductions In PA Already
The latest PA Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows overall carbon dioxide equivalent reductions of 11.37 percent (304.05 to 269.47 million metric tons-- 34.58 million metric tons) from 2000 to 2014 (the latest year information is available).
A very significant portion of those reductions came from the replacement of coal-fired power plants with natural gas in Pennsylvania, the sources affected by EPA’s power plant rule.  
Emissions from coal-fired plants in Pennsylvania dropped from 111.04 million metric tons to 74.68 million metric tons-- 36.36 million metric tons-- between 2000 and 2014.
These reductions caused by fuel switching and coal-fired plant retirements alone put Pennsylvania within reasonable striking distance of meeting the original EPA Clean Power Plan reductions for the state by 2030.
The retirements and fuel-switching, caused by market forces, are expected to continue providing additional greenhouse gas reductions in Pennsylvania.
Climate Actions In PA
DEP puts its efforts to develop a plan to comply with the original EPA Clean Power Plan on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court stay was issued in February 2016 after holding a series of 14 listening sessions around the state from September to November 2015 taking comments on what should be included in Pennsylvania’s plan to meet its requirements.
DEP did, however, move ahead to finalize General Permits limiting methane emissions from new unconventional oil and gas operations and plans to propose regulations limiting methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities in the first quarter of 2019.
DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee has been moving ahead with development of the 2018 update to the PA Climate Change Action Plan as it is required to do by state law, including releasing an updated PA Greenhouse Gas Inventory in April and a revised list of mitigation strategies to respond to climate change impacts.
The 2015 update to the PA Climate Change Action Plan included dozens of recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania from all sectors. Click Here for a copy of the 2015 Update.
A 2015 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update done by Penn State University outlined a whole series of impacts from climate change on Pennsylvania.  Click Here for a copy of the report.
In June the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources released a Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Report On Public Lands outlining 123 action steps it plans to take in response to the impacts of climate change.
Legislation has also been introduced in the House and Senate to adopt Pennsylvania’s own climate plan that requires a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025-- Senate Bill 15 (Costa-D-Allegheny)-- and to switch the state to 100 percent renewable power by 2050.
Gov. Wolf opposed the Trump’s Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
DEP and Attorney General Shapiro have also opposed efforts by EPA to weaken federal car emission standards adopted in part to reduce climate-changing emissions.
Visit DEP’s Climate Change webpage for more information on climate-related activities in Pennsylvania.  Visit DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee webpage for information on DEP’s activities on the 2018 Updated to the state’s Climate Change Action Plan.
PA Coal Alliance Executive Director Rachel Gleason issued the following statement on the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule--
“The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance (PCA) applauds the EPA for today’s release of the much anticipated Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, a return to EPA’s statutorily approved authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA).
“The ACE rule replaces the unprecedented and illegal attempt to broadly regulate electric generation found in the last Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The PCA has maintained that the CPP was flawed in its attempt to regulate power plants outside the walls of the facilities themselves, and the CAA was only intended to allow EPA to promulgate performance standards that are based on measures that can be implemented within a facility.
“The CAA plainly states that the EPA cannot choose who gets to contribute to the power grid, yet the CPP’s one-size-fits-all mandate did just that in picking winners and losers and was particularly discriminatory against Pennsylvania as one of the top producers of affordable baseload generation.
“The ACE rule will give Pennsylvania’s policy makers latitude in responsibly determining how to meet standards of performance within EPA’s guidelines, and will encourage individual power plants to make facility upgrades and efficiency improvements without initiating New Source Review.
“As a net exporter of energy, the ACE rule will protect jobs and encourage economic growth in Pennsylvania while providing reliable and resilient coal-fired power that is affordable for businesses and consumers, and protects ratepayers from significant electricity price increases.”
PennFuture Tuesday urged EPA to reverse course on its purported replacement for the Clean Power Plan announced by the Trump administration, which would safeguard and prioritize the polluting coal industry over climate and public health.
EPA calls this new proposal the “Affordable Clean Energy” rule, but it’s neither clean nor affordable. Its own analysis says this new plan may increase emissions of harmful air pollutants and carbon pollution from dirty coal plants.
Worse yet, PennFuture said, the Trump administration is preparing a separate plan to further subsidize the unprofitable coal plants at the expense of citizens across the country. Even if Pennsylvania worked to meet its original Clean Power Plan goals in spite of this rollback, citizens will still breathe excess pollution from upwind states like Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana.  
“The EPA’s own report shows rolling back the Clean Power Plan could result in 1,400 additional deaths because of air pollution,” said Rob Altenburg, Director of PennFuture’s Energy Center. “Trump’s plan also means more Pennsylvania children suffering from asthma will miss school, and more parents will miss work to care for them.”
PennFuture urges Congress to reverse this attack on environmental protections and pursue innovative, swift climate solutions, such as Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s market-driving approach to reduce emissions, rather than allowing companies to pollute even more, putting profits over people.
“This may be the Trump administration’s most egregious attack on our environmental protections to date. In addition, the administration is proposing to repeal motor vehicle emissions standards and take away the ability of states like Pennsylvania to opt-in to higher standards. It has released this plan to weaken standards for the dirtiest power plants. And, it is expected to release new plans to subsidize unprofitable coal plants, forcing consumers to pay more for dirty power that harms them,” Altenburg said. “We need to do more to combat climate change, not less, but the Trump administration is attempting to scrap emissions standards for the biggest carbon polluters. Not only will this plan be worse for the air we all breathe, it will actually cost our citizens more than the existing Clean Power Plan. It’s a bad deal for all of us.”
PennFuture said the proposed plan is vastly inferior to the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, which, following clear direction from the U.S. Supreme Court, was the first-ever rule requiring CO2 reductions from power plants.
The Clean Power Plan served as the foundation of America’s commitment to the world that our nation is serious about climate action. The proposed alternative plan will, at best, slightly reduce carbon emissions, but may end up actually increasing emissions, at a time when we need aggressive action.
EPA claims the “Affordable Clean Energy” rule will produce CO2 emissions reductions, but their estimates are far below the benefits of the Clean Power Plan. This means more illness and premature death from air pollution and climate change.  
PennFuture added results would be worse for wildlife as well, as the plan would do little to stem climate impacts, and could actually contribute to the climate crisis.
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