EPA Proposes Rule To Replace ‘Clean Power’ Plan


The Environmental Protection Agency on August 21st released its proposed rule to replace the “Clean Power” Plan (CPP). The rule, which is called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, would get rid of the CPP’s takeover of the grid and concentrate on “inside the fence” regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from individual coal and natural gas power plants. The proposed “best system of emission reduction” for existing coal plants is heat-rate efficiency improvements. States are invited to design plans that will suit their particular fleet of power plants.
The ACE Rule also proposes major changes in the New Source Review (NSR) permitting program. Increasing the efficiency by which coal is burned in a power plant typically leads to higher output and thus higher emissions. Under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977, higher emissions triggers a requirement to obtain a NSR environmental permit. The lengthy and expensive NSR permitting process in the past has often dissuaded utilities from undertaking upgrades to their existing power plants. The proposed change would allow utilities to avoid NSR by choosing hourly emissions over total emissions. If the hourly emissions do not increase, then an NSR permit would not be necessary.       
Reactions to the proposed rule were mixed. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) tweeted, “This is a declaration of war against America and all of humanity—it will not stand. Truth and common sense will triumph over Trump’s insanity.” California, New York, and a number of other states announced that they will file suit to block the replacement rule.
Statements of support came from Sen.James M. Inhofe (R-OK); Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science Committee; the Heartland Institute; and CEI, and many others. But many applauding the rule, including me, also said that the ultimate goal must be to reconsider and revoke the 2009 Endangerment Finding that found that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare and therefore must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.      
The EPA announced that it will invite public comments for sixty days after publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register and will hold at least one public hearing.