NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Which States Lose From the Changes to the EPA's Clean Power Plan?

August 12, 2015

The EPA's final Clean Power Plan is radically different from the version proposed a year ago, with big consequences for states that will face the most costly paths toward compliance in 2030.  The proposed rule gave coal-dependent states a break in many ways, but the final rule does not, meaning those states -- generally hostile to the rule -- face a much more difficult task in complying with it, writes Phillip Wallach for the Brookings Institute.

The basic structure is that the EPA set carbon emissions standards for two types of plants: for fossil fuel-fired steam generating units, 1305 lbs CO2/MWh, and for stationary combustion turbines, 771 lbs CO2/MWh.  Now each state's target is set by looking at a weighted average of their 2012 fossil fuel-fired electrical generating units and imposing those emission standards.  States must devise their own plans to reach those targets, using just about any combination of measures they see fit, as well as preparing federally enforceable fallback plans to regulate each plant directly.  

The new mix of targets is far easier to defend as equitable -- it is much harsher on states that have done less to move toward carbon efficient energy production to date.

Roughly speaking, states that have already taken many actions to improve their carbon efficiency (especially embracing renewables and natural gas) are tasked with smaller additional reductions (e.g., California, states in the Northeast), while states that have done less and are still more coal-dependent are asked to do more (e.g., Illinois, Montana, North Dakota).

That makes plenty of intuitive and economic sense, but it is sure to make certain states dig in their heels against the rule politically.  The EPA may well have decided that their opposition was a certainty in any case so that the extra requirements won't generate any extra enmity.

Source: Phillip Wallach, "Which States Lose From the Changes to the EPA's Clean Power Plan?" Brookings Institute, August 5, 2015.


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