FederalIssuesEPA Overhauls Obama-Era Environmental Regulations

On Wednesday, the EPA replaced the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan regulatory scheme with the Affordable Clean Energy rule.
June 20, 2019
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the discontinuation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and institution of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.

The EPA said the rule “restores the rule of law and empowers states to continue to reduce emissions while providing affordable and reliable energy for all Americans.”

The now-antiquated CPP was instituted on October 23, 2015, and was President Obama’s regulatory attempt at reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by “30 percent from 2005 levels.” The rule provided benchmarks for power companies to meet on carbon emissions.

It was also the governing component of the Paris Climate Agreement the United States signed onto in December of 2015.

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the agreement, citing the “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

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The President specifically mentioned the hit America’s manufacturing and coal industries would take under the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In 2016, the U.S Energy Information Administration calculated that Texas led the country with 653.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions — a nine percent increase since 2005.

The CPP forced states to formulate their own plan to reach those benchmarks, and if they did not, the EPA would construct one on their behalf. Critics of the plan argued that it would have significantly increased energy costs on Texans and all Americans.

The U.S Energy Information Administration found that during the time (2005-2017) the United States’ energy emissions declined by 14 percent, the world’s emissions rose by 21 percent. This all occurred without the CPP going into effect due to the Supreme Court’s stay of the rule because of litigation.

Upon its introduction, the CPP was challenged by 24 states (including Texas) who brought lawsuits forward against the EPA disputing the CPP’s legality. The challenges focused on what plaintiffs saw as the Obama administration’s illegal attempt to “reorganize the nation’s energy grid” beyond statutory authority.

Meanwhile, the EPA says ACE will reduce carbon emissions by 11 million tons by 2030, or about 0.6 percent according to last year’s carbon emissions. The EPA projects the reduction from ACE, paired with industry trends, will by 2030 result in a 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels.

ACE is aimed at reducing emissions specifically from coal-powered plants, setting benchmarks for efficiency improvements without the hard-mandates that were included in CPP.

The Texan contacted the American Conservation Coalition — an organization dedicated to “changing the narrative on environmental discussions through the promotion of free-market and pro-business environmentalism in legislatures, college campuses, the political arena, and beyond.”

National policy director Nick Lindquist said, “Though the rollback is not ideal for mitigating the effects of climate change, we believe this is an opportunity for Congress to step up and introduce bills supporting energy freedom and energy innovations like carbon capture and storage (CCS) in order to reduce emissions.”

Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, said of the move, “It will intensify carbon pollution from the burning of dangerous fossil fuels and accelerate the warming of the planet, increasing life-threatening changes to our climate.” Environment Texas is an environmental advocacy organization located in Austin.

Kenny Stein, director of policy at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), told The Texan, “Our ideal situation would have been to repeal the CPP with no replacement. But as an improvement, ACE works.”

IER, Stein stated, would ideally prefer to see the Trump administration undo the “endangerment finding” that allows the EPA to regulate carbon emissions.

In Massachusetts vs. EPA, the court found the EPA is permitted to regulate carbon emissions, regardless of what states say.

Stein then added, “The ACE rule acknowledges the existing requirements  (under current law) to regulate carbon emissions while instituting a more rational, less destructive, and more flexible approach to the regulation.”

The Trump administration believes ACE will allow America to continue its CO2 reduction while not stifling American industry. Detractors believe it is not forceful enough.

States will have three years to submit plans that will reach the benchmarks set by ACE.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.