Canadian Consulting Engineer

U.S. Clean Power Plan stumbles – Environmental Protection Agency responds

February 16, 2016

The North American renewable power industry received a blow last week when the U.S. Supreme court halted the implementation of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations.

On February 9, the Supreme Court conceded in a 5-4 decision to the will of 27 states and agencies who had asked for the Clean Power Plan regulations to be stayed.

While organizations such as the Heartland Institute, a conservative “free-market think tank” rejoiced at the Court’s decision, the Environmental Protection Agency resolved to move forward.

The EPA says: The Court’s decision was not on the merits of the rule. EPA firmly believes the Clean Power Plan will be upheld when the merits are considered because the rule rests on strong scientific and legal foundations. For the states that choose to continue to work to cut carbon pollution from power plants and seek the agency’s guidance and assistance, EPA will continue to provide tools and support. We will make any additional information available as necessary.”


Isaac Orr, research fellow at the Heartland Institute, took the contrary view: “America’s future is a little brighter today because the Supreme Court has dealt a major blow to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.” Orr continued, “The United States produces only 2 per cent of its total energy from wind and solar…. The fact of the matter is, we are going to be dependent upon fossil fuels for a long time because they are the most affordable, abundant sources of energy we have. The Supreme Court delivered a decisive victory to middle-income Americans.”

President Obama announced the Clean Power Plan in August 3. It is the U.S.’s first attempt to cut carbon pollution from fossil power plants, which are by far the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the country, amounting to 31%. President Obama’s plan is to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan was formed over years of “unprecedented outreach” to states, tribes, utilities, etc. More than 4.3 million comments had been submitted to EPA on the proposed rules.

According to EPA, the plant gives states and utilities “ample flexibility” and time to achieve the pollution cut. Also, fossil fuels would “continue to be a critical component of America’s energy future. The Clean Power Plan simply makes sure that fossil fuel-fired power plants will operate more cleanly and efficiently, while expanding the capacity for zero- and low-emitting power sources.”

In justifying the need to cut carbon emissions, the plan points out: “2014 was the hottest year in recorded history, and 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the first 15 years of this century.” The report adds: “Overwhelmingly, the best scientists in the world, relying on troves of data and millions of measurements collected over the course of decades on land, in air and water, at sea and from space, are telling us that our activities are causing climate change.”

In Canada, the Harper Government passed regulations in 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The rules became effective in July last year and establish an emissions performance standard of 420 tonnes of Co2 per gigawatt for new coal fired generation units.

To see EPA’s reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling, click here.

To read the Environmental Protection Agency summary of the August 3, 2016 Power Plan, click here

To read the Heartland Institute’s statement, click here.

To read about the Canadian Government’s rules on coal-fired electricity, click here.



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