Update: Trump Administration Finalizes "Affordable Clean Energy Rule"
That Won't Protect Climate
Even as communities around the country struggle more and more with the effects of climate change, the Trump Administration June 19 repealed the Clean Power Plan, which the Obama Administration had designed to cut climate-changing pollution from existing power plants. In its place the Administration issued a so-called “Affordable Clean Energy Rule” (ACE) that would do virtually nothing to protect people from climate change.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stressed that by 2030, “we expect to see U.S. power sector CO2 [climate changing carbon dioxide] emissions fall by as much as 35 percent below 2005 levels.” But the agency’s own analysis shows that virtually all of the predicted 35 percent reduction is due to market conditions and would occur without the ACE rule. The EPA analysis estimates that the rule would cut 2030 CO2 emissions by 0.7 percent relative to business as usual.
Moreover, the forecast 35 percent reduction is far less than the percentage reductions that scientists say are needed worldwide across all sectors to halt the continued buildup of climate pollution in the atmosphere and avoid the most dangerous health, economic, ecological and other effects of climate change.
At the press conference announcing the actions, Wheeler said that the rule would result in more-affordable electricity and that he expects more coal plants to open as a result, AP reported June 19. But EPA’s analysis shows a slight decline in coal generation, and many utilities already have cut back on coal. DTE chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson told The Washington Post that his company will not change its plans to shutter 14 of 18 coal plants, and that the rest of the industry is heading in a similar direction.
The Trump EPA repealed the Clean Power Plan based on the Administration’s assertion that the rule was illegal. That question remains unsettled, because the Trump Administration earlier persuaded a federal court not to rule on that question, even though the court already had heard the case.
Find the final rule, fact sheets and related materials on the EPA web site @ this link
Find the proposal and other docket information @ https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355
Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355
See multiple sets of comments that Save EPA submitted to EPA on CPP and ACE @ this link
What’s at Risk and Talking Points
The Clean Power Plan vs. the Trump Administration’s Proposed Replacement Rule
The CPP was designed to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector. The rule establishes emission targets and provides each state with flexibility to design its own plan for cutting carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel-fired power plants. By 2030, the CPP would help achieve a 32 percent reduction in carbon dioxide pollution from the power sector relative to the 2005 level. CO2 reduction strategies also would cut emissions of other air pollutants that are associated with increases in heart attacks, hospital admissions for asthma attacks, and deaths.
EPA’s 2015 analysis shows that the health, environmental and other economic benefits of the CPP are large, dwarfing the costs to comply. The net benefits (the benefits minus costs) were estimated to range from between $26 billion to $45 billion in 2030.
The proposed replacement rule, on the other hand, would achieve very little reduction in greenhouse gas pollution. In addition, it would knock a large loophole in the New Source Review program that requires installation of modern controls for traditional air pollutants in existing power plants that make significant modifications. Thus, the proposed ACE rule would increase emissions of conventional pollutants as well.
The Administration calls the proposed rule the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE).
Suggested Talking Points
- It is urgent that we act to stop the buildup in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution that is causing climate change.
- This proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule is not up to the task.
The GHG reductions are inadequate to address climate change
Reduction in emissions of conventional pollutants is trivial compared to CPP
There will be more lost lives, illnesses, property damage, and environmental damage from climate pollution and other air pollution if CPP is replaced with this rule.
It will not encourage more efficient use of electricity.
It will not encourage the use of cleaner methods of electricity generation.
It will not reduce consumer electricity bills over time.
- The Trump Administration is basing its replacement of CPP on the assertion that the CPP is illegal, yet opposes a court ruling on the legality of the CPP. The Administration should reverse course and ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – which already has heard the CPP case – to issue its decision. If the Administration is confident of its legal position, why won’t it let the court rule?
- If the CPP is upheld, EPA should work with states to implement the Clean Power Plan.
- If the CPP is ruled illegal by the federal courts, EPA officials should publicly call for the Trump Administration and Congress to enact legislation that requires fossil-fuel-fired power plants to achieve CO2 reductions of a magnitude substantially greater than would occur under market conditions in the absence of new requirements.
Action on climate change is urgently needed.
Carbon dioxide pollution and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are the primary cause of recent climate change, threatening the lives, health, and well-being of Americans and people around the globe.
It is urgent that we act now to cut emissions as much as feasible. Once emitted, carbon dioxide pollution stays in the atmosphere for tens of years to thousands of years, harming people today and for many generations to come. The National Research Council of the National Academies has warned, “The warming induced by added carbon dioxide is expected to be nearly irreversible for at least 1,000 years.”[i]
GHGs build up in the atmosphere and have wide-ranging impacts in the United States and worldwide. Current and anticipated impacts include:
Heat waves and record high temperatures along with an increased risk of heat-related illnesses and death especially among the poor and elderly;
Greater risk of droughts, fire, more damaging storms, and floods that can cause deaths and injuries as well as damage to property and infrastructure;
Increased spread of diseases increases in health problems from ozone pollution in U.S. cities, and increases in allergens;
Acidification of the oceans, extinction of species, damage to crops and fisheries, and potential increases in world hunger and other destabilizing changes that would reduce U.S. national security; and
Possible rapid changes that could cause abrupt and serious impacts for people and ecosystems. (For more information including scientific sources, click here.)
Climate change disproportionately threatens the health and welfare of vulnerable populations in the U.S. and around the world including children, the elderly and the poor, and the health and welfare of indigenous people.
We are seeing the impacts now. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that between 1980 and October 6, 2017, extreme weather disasters had cost $1.3 trillion in inflation-adjusted damage and resulted in 9,905 deaths, not counting Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.[ii] Climate change already has exacerbated extreme weather and can be expected to have even greater effects in the future.[iii]
Several assessments state that we may be approaching critical, poorly understood thresholds that may lead to rapid and potentially permanent changes not predicted by climate models that could cause abrupt and serious impacts for society and ecosystems.
ACE is inadequate.
The ACE proposal, like CPP, would apply to coal and gas-fired power plants. Together these plants represent one of the two largest sources of CO2in the U.S.[vi]
Like CPP, the ACE proposal would set federal guidelines for state emissions standards. States would be required to develop their own plans and submit them to EPA for approval. If EPA determined that a state plan was not satisfactory, EPA could impose a federal plan.
But there are important differences between CPP and ACE, and every one of those differences serve to make ACE much weaker than CPP:
The CPP establishes emissions targets for each state. State plans must lay out how their plan’s measures would achieve the state goal. With the proposed ACE, there is no emission rate goal or level of emissions reduction that a state plan must achieve. It is left up to the states to decide what is reasonable. Some states take climate change seriously and have meaningful programs to combat it. Other states do not, and ACE is unlikely to spur them to action.
Under CPP, states could use a wide range of actions to achieve state goals, including extremely cost-effective measures such as measures to encourage switching to cleaner generation or measures to promote efficient use of electricity. Measures to encourage efficient use of electricity is the least expensive way to reduce emissions and it also reduces the cost of electricity to the rate payers.
Under the proposed ACE, the only measures that States can use in their state plans are engineering changes to coal and oil-fired power plants to increase their heat rate. (the amount of energy in the fuel required to generate a kilowatt-hour of electricity.) These changes would make the plants slightly more efficient but do nothing to make the use of electricity more efficient. Using this strategy alone, it is not possible to achieve GHG emissions reductions anywhere near the magnitude of reductions that the CPP would achieve. In fact, it is possible that, in many markets where plants run competitively, fossil fuel plants that make investments to become a little more efficient will run a little more and emit more pollution.
The proposed ACE would not promote long-run decreases for consumer electric bills as CPP would, because the ACE proposal would not promote more efficient electricity use.
In addition, ACE contains a provision that would gut a long-standing Clean Air Act program (New Source Review) that requires that power plants making a major modification install pollution controls to reduce emissions of traditional air pollutants. ACE changes the threshold test so that emissions are measured hourlyinstead of annually, so plants that emit more pollution because they run more often would be exempt – a change that would cripple EPA efforts to protect air quality.
ACE does little to reduce emissions. Public health would suffer.
ACE does not reduce power plant CO2 emissions by nearly as much as CPP would. According to EPA’s economic analysis, ACE would reduce power plant CO2emissions by at best a projected 22 million short tons in 2035 from what they would be without ACE or CPP Under CPP CO2 emissions reductions are more than three times that amount.[vii]
The ACE proposal would achieve far less reduction in traditional air pollutant emissions than the CPP. As a result, more pollutants that form particle pollution (soot) and ozone (smog) would be emitted, resulting in up to 1400 more deaths a year than under CPP. Under the ACE proposal, there would also be up to 430 more non-fatal heart attacks, up to 48,000 more lost work days, and up to 140,000 more school absence days.[viii]
This is all justified by an untested legal theory and in order to save costs for the power industry. ACE is estimated by EPA to save the power sector up to $900 million a year.[ix]For perspective, this is an industry with $386.5 billion in annual revenues in 2016, ACE provides the power industry a cost saving of 0.2 percent of revenue.[x]
The economic incentives created by the CPP would spur investment in new clean technology such as wind and solar generated electricity. Natural gas generation, which emits half as much CO2 as coal generation, also would increase. Under CPP, coal-fired generation would continue the decline already in progress due to market forces, but coal would continue to play a major part in America’s energy mix even in 2030.
Under ACE, coal also continues to decline but less than it does under CPP. But ACE discourages investments in cleaner technologies and the jobs those technologies would create. ACE does nothing to encourage generation from renewables or greater efficiency in the use of electricity. EPA projects that generation from renewable energy would be less in all years analyzed than it would be under CPP or under no regulation at all. EPA does not claim any job increases under ACE.
One problem for the effort to replace CPP with ACE is that EPA’s 2015 CPP economic analysis shows large benefits that far exceed the costs. So, the Trump administration has created a questionable methodology for its analysis of ACE, making several changes that increase the estimated costs of CPP and reduce the estimated benefits in an apparent effort to show that replacing CPP with ACE would not harm the overall welfare of the American people. The omission of some benefits and the use of inappropriate assumptions results in a series of cost-benefit comparisons that suggest that the net benefits of promulgating ACE will range from negative -- with harm to the American public valued at almost $1 billion -- to a positive benefit of $1.1 billion. A proper cost-benefit analysis that counted all benefits – for example, global climate benefits -- would show that the proposed ACE forgoes large benefits that CPP would have provided.
For more talking points on the Clean Power Plan and the inadequate proposed replacement -- the Affordable Clean Energy rule -- see comments that Save EPA submitted to EPA at this link.
There Is A Lot That We Can Do
The upcoming November elections give us a potent opportunity to let our elected leaders know that public protections are important to us and how we vote. Submitting comments to EPA is a good first step. Please consider writing to your members of Congress (your representative in the House of Representatives and your two senators). Many of them up for reelection.
If you submitted comments to EPA, you can let your members of Congress and other elected officials know what you think by sending them a copy of your comments. Even if you did not, please consider writing to your members of Congress. A template for comments to members of Congress is on page 23 of Save EPA’s “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump De-Regulatory Agenda,” which is available to read or download at the following link: http://saveepaalums.info/Resistance+Guide. The following links help you send your comments to your members:
Countable lets you identify your members of Congress based on your address and then send a message to all three members at once. Its link is https://www.countable.us/.
If you prefer to write your members of Congress separately, you can go to https://whoismyrepresentative.com/orhttps://www.usa.gov/elected-officials/ to find your members' email contact forms or snail mail addresses.
Also consider letting your state and local officials know that you are concerned about this issue by writing or calling them or speaking at town hall meetings. In the absence of federal leadership, it is vitally important that states and local governments fill the void.
Other ways of raising the public and political profile of this rollback include:
Getting involved with local activists who are encouraging federal, state or local action.
Writing letters to the editor and even op-eds in your local papers. Letters to the editor should be fairly brief.
Organizing or participating in campaigns to make phone calls or write letters to members of Congress. Some campaigns ask participants to make phone calls to radio stations during call-in days or take other actions to spread the word.
Spreading the word via social media. Tag your elected officials so they know how you feel.
Joining or organizing demonstrations.
Talking to your friends, colleagues and neighbors and encouraging them to comment and otherwise join in this effort.
Finally, one of the most effective things that you can do is to organize or join efforts to encourage action on climate change by your state or city. Many states and cities are taking a leadership position on climate change. Many are marshaling efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases including emissions from power plants. Let officials in your area know that you support these efforts. Write to your elected leaders, get involved with local activists who are encouraging local or state action. Voice your concern and encouragement in the media, social media, at local meetings, and at every opportunity. In the absence of federal leadership, it is vitally important that states and local governments fill the void.
Links for More Information
EPA Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Final Clean Power Plan, October 2015, https://www3.epa.gov/ttnecas1/docs/ria/utilities_ria_final-clean-power-plan-existing-units_2015-08.pdf
EPA, Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Review of the Affordable Clean Energy Rule: Proposal, August 2018, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-08/documents/utilities_ria_proposed_ace_2018-08.pdf
National Research Council (2010), “Advancing the Science of Climate Change,” National Academy Press, Washington, DC available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12782/advancing-the-science-of-climate-change
U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM CLIMATE SCIENCE SPECIAL REPORT (CSSR), 5thOrder Draft, June 28, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/climate/document-Draft-of-the-Climate-Science-Special-Report.html?_r=0
Key Findings from Authoritative Scientific Reports on Climate Change, Attachment to letter signed by 777 former EPA employees, April 14, 2017, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEEWBL5FvSkOTRucTlFRXltQ2M/view
The signed letter is available at http://saveepaalums.info/the-earth-warms-while-trump-ignores-science-a-letter-from-777-epa-alums/
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post, “New EPA Document Reveals Sharply Lover Estimate of the Cost Of Climate Change”, October 11, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/10/11/new-epa-document-reveals-sharply-lower-estimate-of-the-cost-of-climate-change/?utm_term=.e6279b81056d
Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post, “The Energy 202: The Other Scientific Consensus that EPA is Bucking”, October 11, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-energy-202/2017/10/11/the-energy-202-the-other-scientific-consensus-the-epa-is-bucking/59dcff9230fb0468cea81e52/?utm_term=.4fe63051acb3
[i]National Research Council. 2011. Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. p. 61
[vi]US EPA, Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions
[vii]EPA, Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Proposed Emission Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Electric Utility Generating Units; Revisions to Emission Guideline Implementing Regulations; Revisions to New Source Review Program, August 2018, (ACE, RIA) p.3-14.
[viii]ACE RIA p. 4-31
[ix] ACE RIA p. 3-17
[x]EIA, Electricity, Table 2.3, https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_02_03.html