Trump Admin Begins Rollback of Clean Power Plan

SACE Southeast Energy Research Attorney Angela Garrone contributed to this post.

Following through on a campaign promise, the Trump administration signed a rule this week to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever national limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants. An historic public health regulation, which wasn’t scheduled to begin implementation until 2022, the Clean Power Plan was projected to save Americans $12 billion to $34 billion in health cost savings.

By setting modest carbon reduction goals and providing maximum compliance flexibility, including carbon reductions achieved through increased use of natural gas and nuclear, the Clean Power Plan established a balance of environmental and economic development goals. In fact, the rule would have provided relief in the form of utility bill savings, with an estimated $7/month savings realized by 2030 thanks to reduction in power demand thanks to increased energy efficiency.

Instead of capturing these life-saving public health and financial benefits for Americans, the Trump Administration is choosing to reward fossil fuel interests and push onto the public the costs of less efficient, more expensive and polluting energy sources. Energy efficiency, solar, and wind are now the cheapest ways to provide for our energy needs, and in the Southeast, we could save more than a hundred million dollars per year by retiring inefficient coal plants and building wind or solar instead.

The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon pollution emissions from the nation’s electricity sector to 32% below 2005 levels. In a nod to conservatives and fossil fuels interests, the Clean Power Plan gave states the power to create tailored compliance plans that allow for state-specific economic considerations. By giving power to states, the Obama EPA also recognized that some states, like Kentucky, rely more heavily on carbon heavy, coal-fired power.  Carbon emission reductions could be achieved through energy conservation, increased use of renewable and other non-emitting energy or fuel switching from coal to natural gas in existing power plants.

The move to nix the Clean Power Plan is a follow up to the dirty energy executive order President Trump signed in April and is another piece of the Administration’s careless America First Energy Plan, which broadly seeks to prop up fossil fuels over cheaper and safer clean energy.

Yet despite the President’s contempt for progress, Southeastern states are locking in cheap clean power as thousands of megawatts of solar comes online, cities around the region are pledging to get 100% of their power from renewables, and mayors, governors, and gubernatorial candidates are pledging to uphold America’s international pollution reduction commitment, even if the President won’t.

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