Clean Power Plan Repeal and Replacement Proposed By EPA


By: Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz

On August 18, 2018, the Trump administration proposed sweeping changes to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) regulations of power plant greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, which would replace the Clean Power Plan regulations promulgated by the Obama administration in 2015.  According to EPA’s projections, the proposed changes would result in increased emissions of GHGs and other air pollutants, decreased compliance costs, and up to 1,400 additional pollution-related deaths per year compared to what would occur if the Clean Power Plan were implemented.

The Clean Power Plan, which was stayed by the United States Supreme Court in 2016 and proposed for repeal by the Trump administration last February, aimed to reduce power plant GHG emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030 by establishing state-specific emissions targets based on each state’s mix of coal- and gas-fired power plants.  To achieve those targets, states could choose to regulate individual plants’ GHG emissions, promote renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, participate in regional emissions trading programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or implement a combination of emissions reduction measures.

The proposed replacement rule would still require states to submit their own plans to address GHG emissions, except such plans would be “limited to emission reduction measures that can be applied to or at a[]” regulated power plant, as opposed to including renewable energy, downstream energy efficiency improvements, and other off-site emissions reductions permitted under the Clean Power Plan.  States would determine their own emissions reduction targets, subject to EPA review and approval.

In addition to its GHG impacts, the EPA proposal also includes changes to the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review (“NSR”) rules for conventional power plant emissions, which govern which modifications to existing plants trigger new permitting requirements that force the facility to come into compliance with the latest pollution control standards.  Whereas existing regulations require permitting for modifications that significantly increase the facility’s annual emissions, EPA’s latest proposal would allow overall emissions to increase without triggering NSR requirements as long as a facility’s maximum hourly emissions rate remained the same.

EPA will accept public comments on its proposed rules for 60 days, running from the date of the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register.  For additional information about EPA’s proposal and federal GHG regulation, contact Jeffrey B. Gracer.