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NATURAL RESOURCE SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT IN THE WEST

The Clean Power Plan

Mar 7, 2017

When Congress failed to enact legislation to address climate change, President Obama vowed to take action himself. “No challenge poses a greater threat to our children, our planet, and future generations,” he said. In August 2015 Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency issued the Clean Power Plan, a series of regulations under the Clean Air Act that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by about a third by the year 2030.

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Electricity generation is responsible for about 37 percent of carbon emissions in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The CPP would shutter hundreds of existing coal-fired power plants and replace them with cleaner power sources. Obama used the CPP to leverage international agreement on the Paris Climate Accord. Supporters call it the most significant step ever taken to reduce climate change, while critics call it an unlawful overstep, misuse of the Clean Air Act, expensive, and a threat to states.

Upon release of the CPP, several industry groups and 28 states including Wyoming sued to stop it, and in February 2016, the Supreme Court blocked implementation of the regulations while the lawsuit plays out. In September 2016, the DC District Court heard oral arguments on the case, and it has yet to make a decision. Then, in November 2016, Donald Trump, who has vowed to do away with the Environmental Protection Agency, became president-elect of the United States. He nominated Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, to head the EPA. Pruitt has denied anthropogenic climate change, is a lead architect of the legal battle against the CPP, and has strongly opposed a range of environmental regulations.

Under a Trump administration, the CPP could be weakened or eliminated by the courts, by the EPA, or by Congress. The DC District Court could side with the litigants and determine that the rule is illegal. If the District Court upholds the rule, it could be appealed to the Supreme Court, in which case Trump’s appointee to the vacant justice seat could sway the outcome. Meanwhile, the Trump administration could voluntarily remand the CPP back to the EPA, which, under Pruitt’s oversight, would undergo a year-long process to revise, and presumably weaken, the rule. Furthermore, the Republican-led Congress could override the CPP by passing a bill prohibiting the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from the power industry.

By Emilene Ostlind

1 Comment

  1. Ted Lapis
    March 17, 2017

    Wyoming voters have blindly followed identity politics, instead of thinking things through. The 3 economic “coal wars” were virtually unreported.

    However, today the “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR) is still stuck in my craw, and coal is vital for school funding, so let’s start there. When the Office of Surface Mining issued the SPR, even as corrupt as that process has become, it was still a competitive advantage for Wyoming coal.

    Dry, rolling hills in the Powder River Basin (PRB), where overburden to coal ratios are still favorable, benefits compared to coal production in WV, VA, & KY. So, why did Wyoming politicians stab coal miners, school funding, and taxpayers? Corruption.

    Midwestern Coal (Peabody, Arch Minerals), and Eastern Coal (formerly Alpha, and others), never wanted a single ton of PRB coal shipped into their customer’s businesses. They did not start the PRB, but made a defensive purchase of the assets from the Big Oil companies that did start the PRB. Yes, Peabody did do a “greenfield” start, but that also was a defensive investment.

    The WY PRB closed down more than 1,000 mines in the USA. While PRB production costs are increasing, that resource is a blessing for Wyoming, that we don’t appreciate. The lack of outcry from lazy Wyoming citizens, taking their good fortune for granted, is a crime we can only blame on ourselves.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    Reply

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